March 10, 2011

The Recovery Act: Winning the Future for America’s Cities by Changing the Way Government Does Business

The Recovery Act is helping America’s cities become better prepared to be long-term engines of economic opportunity, according to a new report. That’s why yesterday I was proud to join Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez of New York in releasing The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Working for America’s Cities, which found that the Recovery Act has helped position American cities to out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build our competitors – to, in President Obama’s words, “win the future.”

Of course, the immediate impact of the Recovery Act is well-known – it saved our cities, and indeed our country, from the brink of economic collapse by putting people back to work and rebuilding our communities.  But as HUD’s new report shows, the Recovery Act has gone further than that – laying the foundation for the 21st century economy by changing the way government itself does business.

Thanks to the Recovery Act, government agencies like HUD are approaching challenges in a new way, whether it’s partnering with the private sector or working with other agencies to achieve the best results while being responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars. Indeed, the historic investments of the Recovery Act have taught us lessons that will have long-term implications for all government programs.

Examples of collaboration include our work with the Department of Energy through a Recovery Act program to coordinate the distribution of $5 billion in funds directed to weatherize homes. In addition to helping American families reduce their immediate energy costs, in the long run investments like our Weatherization partnership will help America become less dependent on foreign oil and allow homeowners to have lower utility bills and more money to spend or save for retirement.

And our collaborative efforts aren’t just helping families – they’re helping entire communities. Through HUD’s partnership with the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Recovery Act allowed us to initiate new ways to give our cities a competitive advantage and solve multiple problems with a single investment.  It’s a partnership that led to the creation of the Sustainable Communities Initiative, which encourages links between residential centers to commercial, educational and corporate hubs through well-designed transit.  Through it, we can ensure parents spend less time driving and more time with their children, that more families live in safe, stable communities near good schools and jobs, and that more businesses have access to the capital and talent they need to grow and prosper.  Best of all, cities that embrace similar planning and approaches will be better prepared to attract jobs and private investment.

But as important as these creative new partnerships are, it is just as essential to help change the ways cities allocate resources and address problems.  And as the report shows, the Recovery Act has helped us do precisely that on the issue of homelessness through innovative programs like Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP).  HPRP created a system that allowed individuals and families facing life on the streets to make specific payments that enabled them to cover their rent or move back into their homes. The report reveals that to date over 875,000 people–including 21,000 military veterans–were kept off the streets and in their homes because of this innovative approach – an approach that led the US Conference of Mayors to say that HPRP is “fundamentally changing” how local governments respond to homelessness.

It’s clear, then, that the Recovery Act was a remarkable success in helping our cities bounce back from the economic crisis.  But as the new report shows, and I was proud to present, its legacy will be even broader and longer-lasting.  By transforming government and providing cities with the new tools they need to tackle their toughest challenges, the Obama Administration is helping cities lay the foundation for winning the future in the 21st century.


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