July 22, 2021

Kilmer, Coons, Herrera Beutler Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Spur Economic Growth & Create Jobs

RECOMPETE Act Establishes New Grant Program to Invest in Communities That Have Faced Long-Term Economic Challenges

Today, New Democrat Coalition Chair Emeritus Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), along with Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), introduced the bipartisan Rebuilding Economies and Creating Opportunities for More People Everywhere to Excel Act (RECOMPETE Act). The RECOMPETE Act would establish a new federal grant program at the Economic Development Agency (EDA) that would empower persistently distressed communities to develop, implement, and carry out 10-year economic development strategies and create jobs.

Distressed communities, as identified by the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, are home to almost one-sixth of the U.S. population and have an employment rate of workers ages 25 to 54 significantly below the national average. The Upjohn Institute’s analysis suggests that these communities have largely been left out of the investment, wealth, innovation, and opportunity that has instead been concentrated in a handful of major metro areas in recent decades. 

The RECOMPETE Act would provide eligible local labor markets, local communities, and Tribal governments with flexible 10-year RECOMPETE Grants from the EDA in an effort to meet a variety of local economic development needs. Grants could be used for infrastructure investments, brownfield redevelopment, workforce development, small business assistance, resources to connect residents to opportunities, and other investments to help communities rebuild.

“I grew up in Port Angeles and was in high school right around the time the timber industry took it on the chin. I saw a lot of my friends’ parents lose their jobs. It had a big impact on me - and I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to figure out how to make sure we are doing a better job of protecting workers and communities so that no one gets left behind in our society and economy,” said NDC Chair Emeritus Derek Kilmer (WA-06). “That’s why I’ve worked with Senator Coons and Rep. Herrera Beutler to introduce the bipartisan RECOMPETE Act – a bold proposal to provide flexible, long-term grant assistance to create jobs and lay the foundation for long-term economic growth and opportunity. This is about ensuring people have economic opportunity – regardless of what zip code they live in.”

“Time and again, economic crises in America have highlighted inequities across our communities. In order to successfully rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic, we should address the root causes of economic distress in communities,” said Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). “I’m proud to partner with Representative Kilmer in introducing this ambitious legislation that will target the most distressed communities with job opportunities, business investment, and resources for long-term economic growth. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to move this legislation forward, so that our recovery lifts up every American regardless of where they live.”

“Growing our economy and creating good paying jobs in Southwest Washington has always been my number one priority – not just in cities but each one of our rural communities too,” said Representative Jamie Herrera Beutler (WA-03). “It’s clear that parts of our region that were distressed pre-pandemic and are struggling mightily now would benefit immensely from improved infrastructure, reliable broadband, worker training, small business assistance and other tools and funding that can be controlled locally. That’s why I’m working with Rep. Kilmer and Senator Coons to introduce the bipartisan RECOMPETE Act – a solution that will target these types of tools and resources in places where misguided regulations and government-mandated closures have hurt the most in order to spur the creation of new, permanent jobs.”

“We need to build back better from COVID-19 and ensure every American has the opportunity to succeed” said NDC Chair Suzan DelBene (WA-01). “That’s why the New Democrat Coalition supports Chair Emeritus Kilmer’s RECOMPETE Act, which will give economically distressed communities flexible tools to address their unique development needs, create jobs, and build long-term economic growth.” 

The RECOMPETE Act is endorsed by the National League of Cities, the New Democrat Coalition, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the Progressive Policy Institute, Third Way, the Economic Innovation Group, New Democrat Network, and the Federal Issues Committee of the Washington State Association of Counties.

“Through the Economic Development Agency, the RECOMPETE Act would give municipalities access to flexible grants to meet economic development needs, create good jobs, invest in their workforce, and connect residents to opportunities within persistently distressed communities,” said Clarence Anthony, CEO & Executive Director of the National League of Cities (NLC) in a letter supporting the RECOMPETE Act. “This bill recognizes the overall need to invest in America’s workforce and the differing needs within each community. By maintaining flexibility and local control, city leaders in persistently distressed communities can tailor workforce investments to properly prepare their residents to work in critical industries within the local economy. NLC is committed to realizing equitable solutions, and the RECOMPETE Act prioritizes investment where it is needed most.”

“Providing local communities and governments with the flexible economic tools they need to succeed is a key component to building back better after this pandemic. Our leaders who are working on-the-ground in economically distressed communities know best when it comes to supporting job growth and investing in their local economy, which is why the RECOMPETE Act is such an important bill. The Progressive Policy Institute applauds Representatives Kilmer and Herrera and Senator Coons on this commonsense, bipartisan legislation, and encourages its swift passage through Congress. Our communities need this funding now,” said Will Marshall, President of the Progressive Policy Institute. 

“Over the last 40 years, federal support to help lagging regions and communities rebound has been declining. Moreover, current efforts are often too little, too late to make a real difference for communities. The RECOMPETE Act would address these shortcomings by providing flexible long-term assistance to help persistently distressed labor markets, and the workers there, get back on their feet,” said Robert D. Atkinson, Ph. D., President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “The United States can no longer afford to write off whole communities. The RECOMPETE Act is an important step in reversing this trend.”

“As America builds back from COVID, we need a bold agenda that focuses on creating jobs in every zip code in the country. And we must make sure those jobs lead to prosperity and a good life,” said Gabe Horwitz, Senior Vice President for the Economic Program at Third Way. “Rep. Derek Kilmer’s leadership on these issues and his latest legislation should be applauded. His new federal block grant program would truly help persistently distressed communities—giving them flexible tools to invest in job growth, workers, and economic opportunity. We hope policymakers join his effort and this innovative idea becomes law.”  

“The Washington State Association of Counties’ Federal Issues Committee agreed unanimously to support this innovative legislation. The block grant approach would empower historically distressed communities to craft targeted solutions to address the unique economic challenges within their communities. This legislation would move past the usual one-sized-fits-all approach that doesn’t reflect the uniqueness of our respective economies,” said Robert Gelder, Kitsap County Commissioner and federal issues committee chair for the Washington State Association of Counties.

The legislation introduced by NDC Chair Emeritus Kilmer is co-sponsored by 49 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including: Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Suzan K. DelBene, Doug LaMalfa, Pete Aguilar, Steve Palazzo, Ami Bera, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Earl Blumenauer, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Cheri Bustos, Salud Carbajal, David N. Cicilline, Jim Cooper, Angie Craig, Jason Crow, Sharice Davids, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Debbie Dingell, Bill Foster, Josh Harder, Jim Himes, Steven Horsford, Chrissy Houlahan, Hakeem Jeffries, Ro Khanna, Dan Kildee, Ron Kind, John B. Larson, Elaine G. Luria, Kathy Manning, Lucy McBath, Joe Morelle, Stephanie Murphy, Donald Norcross, Jimmy Panetta, Ed Perlmutter, Scott Peters, Dean Phillips, Kathleen Rice, Tim Ryan, Adam Schiff, Kim Schrier, M.D., Terri A. Sewell, Mikie Sherrill, Darren Soto, Marilyn Strickland, David Trone, and Filemon Vela. 

The companion legislation introduced by Senator Chris Coons is co-sponsored U.S. Senators Michael Bennet, Amy Klobuchar, and Jacky Rosen.

A summary of the bill can be found HERE.

The text of the legislation can be found HERE.