July 22 (UPI) -- Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced Thursday what is believed to be an historic $3 billion in grants to aid communities not only recover from the coronavirus pandemic but to come out of it with more jobs and a stronger economy.
The program collectively called Investing in America's Communities aims to funnel funds to communities nationwide to spur new industries, create workforce training and apprenticeship programs, accelerate travel and tourism, equip indigenous communities with services such as broadband Internet and health centers and invest in economic development in coal-dependent communities.
"Everybody ought to benefit from this $3 billion initiative," she said. "From working mothers working to balance multiple jobs to young adults looking for work to factory workers or retail workers who lost their job in the pandemic, many of them mid-career wondering 'What happens to me now? What happens to me next?'"
Communities can apply for the grants through what Raimondo described to reporters at the White House as a competition starting Thursday, and her team will decide who the winners are based on equity, including racial and gender equity.
"Our number one investment priority is equity," she said. "In order to qualify to get the money you have to prove to us you'll have an equity lens."
She said the initiative has the potential to create 300,000 jobs in the near term, revitalize dozens of communities and drive innovation in underserved communities while also revitalizing depressed economies.
The funds, which come from the American Rescue Plan Act that President Biden signed in March, is divided into $1 billion for between 20 and 30 regions to put toward projects to build up economies, $500 million for hundreds of communities to support the creation of jobs tailored to local needs, $100 million to develop and execute economic development projects in Indigenous communities, $750 million to reinvigorate the tourism industry, $90 million for statewide planning and research grants and $500 million for workforce training and apprenticeship programs with a focus on women, people of color and underserved communities.
It also includes $300 million for economic development and the diversification of the economies in coal-dependent communities.
"These grants together reflect the values and priorities of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda, and they, alongside of the Jobs Plan, will accelerate America's economic recovery and help the country continue to get back to work," she said.