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8/6/10 Urban Affairs Weekly Newsletter

A weekly look at recent and upcoming events in urban policy from the Office of Urban Affairs.

Top News

The President Touts American Made Products, Bolstering American Economy at AFL-CIO: Speaking at the ALF-CIO Executive Council Meeting this week in Washington DC, President Obama discussed the progress that has been made in employment, with millions finding jobs thanks to the Recovery Act, and the length left to go with millions still out of work. The President told attendees, “we are going to rebuild this economy stronger than before, and at the heart of it are going to be three powerful words:  Made in America.” In his speech he pledged to enforce American trade laws, to fight for tax breaks for companies that invest in the United States, and to continue rebuilding America’s infrastructure for the 21st century.

President Obama Signs the Fair Sentencing Act: This week, President Obama signed into law the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduces the disparity between the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required for the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences and eliminates the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine. The law also increases monetary penalties for major drug traffickers. Speaking on the bill signing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “the signing of today’s bill into law represents the hard work of Democrats and Republicans…coming together and making progress on something that people had identified as a glaring blight on the law.”

First Lady Applauds Senate for Passing Child Nutrition Legislation: Following the Senate’s passing of the Child Nutrition bill Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama issued a statement applauding the efforts of both parties to improve the future of American children. The bill, which provides an additional $4.5 billion over ten years to federal child nutrition programs including school lunches, passed with widespread support from both Democrats and Republicans. The bill also marks the first time in 30 years that the federal government has increased funding for such nutrition programs. “While childhood obesity cannot be solved overnight, with everyone working together, there’s no question that it can be solved -- and today’s vote moves us one step closer to reaching that goal,” the First Lady said.

July Jobs Numbers Show Continued Private Sector Growth: Christina Romer writes on the newly released jobs numbers for the month of July, which show that private sector employment across the country grew by 71,000 jobs in July, the seventh consecutive monthly increase. Growth varied across industries, employment in manufacturing as well as education and health services increased, while that in financial services and construction decreased. Employment in state and local government, including public school teachers, decreased by 48,000 jobs, underscoring the importance of the additional state fiscal relief working its way through Congress. Overall, the pace of growth was not enough to reduce the overall unemployment rate, which remained 9.5 percent.

Administration Report: 74% of Oil in BP Oil Spill has been Contained or Mitigated: A report released this week by a panel of government scientists indicates that the vast majority of the oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered from the wellhead, or dispersed and is in the process of being degraded. The findings reflect the federal government’s aggressive response to the spill.

Department of Energy Awards $188 Million for Small Business Technology Commercialization: U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $188 million in awards to more than 200 small businesses to develop prototype or pilot operations for innovative technologies. The awards, from Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer office, will help these small businesses develop clean energy technologies that have the potential to be commercialized, ultimately spurring new jobs in their communities. "Small businesses are a major engine of innovation and job creation in our economy," Secretary Chu said.  "Bringing these innovative technologies to market will help spur economic growth and reduce the country's energy use."

DOT Secretary LaHood Announces $9.7 Million for Innovative Approaches to Congestion: Seven states will share $9.7 million to develop strategies to minimize traffic congestion as part of the Federal Highway Administration's Value Pricing Pilot Program U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced. The program promotes “value pricing,” a strategic way to incentivize and manage traffic flow by applying varying price levels at different times of the day or in response to traffic volume.  The grant will fund innovative strategies like pay-as-you go insurance plans and parking pricing plans in California, Florida, North Carolina, Minnesota, Texas, Virginia and Washington.


Urban Update--Neighborhood Revitalization: Members of the Neighborhood Revitalization Working Group penned a piece this week detailing their work, which aims to integrate housing, education, justice, and health programs with the goal of transforming neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity. The group—a collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Treasury—is coordinating key programs like Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Neighborhoods to create more comprehensive support for failing communities.

New York Times--Welcome to the Recovery: U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner writes on the Nation’s economic recovery and evidence that the country is on a path back to growth. Recent data, like last quarter’s growth in GDP, shows that large parts of the private sector continue to strengthen. “By taking aggressive action to fix the financial system, reduce growth in health care costs and improve education, we have put the American economy on a firmer foundation for future growth,” Secretary Geithner writes.

Funding Opportunities

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhood Pre-Notice: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development posted the Choice Neighborhood FY 2010 Notice of Funding Availability Pre-Notice to give potential applicants guidance prior to the actual Choice Neighborhoods funding notice that will be published this summer. The guidance offers advance details regarding the application process to compete for funds through this pilot program.

Tiger II Discretionary Grants Program, Deadline August 23: The Department of Transportation is soliciting applications for the "TIGER II" discretionary grant program, a $600 million competitive transportation grant program for surface transportation projects.

Sustainable Communities Grants, Deadline August 23: The U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development have joined together to award up to $75 million in funding–$35 million in TIGER II Planning Grants and $40 million in Sustainable Community Challenge Grants–for localized planning activities that ultimately lead to projects that integrate transportation, housing, and economic development.

HUD Sustainable Regional Planning Grant, Deadline August 23: The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development is seeking applicants for their $100 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program. The program is designed to create stronger, more sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local innovation, and building a clean energy economy. The grant is part of the DOT, HUD, EPA partnership.

EDA Innovation in Economic Development Competition, Deadline August 27: The Economic Development Administration announced funding for projects that advance innovation, boost competitiveness, and create jobs. Grants will be given to innovations in commercialization, regional innovation clusters, global export promotion, and green technology.

Upcoming Events

August 9th—President Obama will travel to Austin, TX on Monday for an education rally at the University of Texas at Austin campus.

August 12th—Alaina Beverly, Associate Director of the Office of Urban Affairs, will speak on “The Urban Agenda--Domestic and International Opportunities” at a meeting of the Business Civic Leadership Council in Seattle.