Cycling the high road of public investments
Posted on July 26, 2023 at 5:40 PM by Mike Owen
Riders on RAGBRAI, the annual statewide bicycle ride across Iowa sponsored by The Des Moines Register, are peddling on a high road by new public investments in infrastructure and critical services that benefit Iowans.
These investments contribute to clean energy, climate and disaster resilience and economic development as a result of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) under the Biden Administration.
Today, a group of organizations coordinated by Progress Iowa launched a new website, iowaatwork.com, to put a spotlight on these investments. The site notes that in Iowa, over $11.8 billion in public funding has set up nearly 2,900 projects to position Iowa for the future, with the IRA investments yet to be counted.
As noted by Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa, the daily RAGBRAI route is a way to spotlight the kinds of projects that are flourishing because of the federal initiatives to help state and local leaders meet their residents’ needs.
“The main thing we want people to realize is that these investments are all around them,” Sinovic said. “There are child care centers in every single county that have gotten support from the Biden administration.”
The website, which includes an interactive statewide map of projects, puts information about the projects in one place. “It’s easy to get lost in the large numbers,” Sinovic noted, as well as the varied federal sources of funding – the ARPA, IIJA or IRA.
Speakers at a news conference launching the website included Theresa Greenfield of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, Coralville Mayor Meghann Foster and Aaron Lehman, president of the Iowa Farmers Union.
Foster appreciated the direct funding to local governments. She said it helped Coralville restore revenue lost during the COVID pandemic to support programs and staff, and make investments in the community.
“Local government officials are the closest to their constituents and we really know how to make those dollars stretch,” Foster said. She noted the food pantry was able to move to a new, larger space. “ARPA funding was a critical part of that.”
Lehman said RAGBRAI riders “comment about the roads and the landscape and the food.” He emphasized the importance of IRA investments in helping the environment, healthy farms and healthy soils.
Despite the successes, Lehman noted efforts to return the aid in Iowa, and lessen investments that have helped Iowans stabilize food systems.
“We need to fight back against that,” he said. “Let’s make the most of those investments.”
Lehman said the Farmers Union wants to illustrate how importance of these investments to rural communities.
“We need to do a better job of telling our story about how these investments make a real difference,” he said.
The Iowa At Work Report and IowaAtWork.com were created by a broad-based coalition of organizations: Iowa Farmers Union, Common Good Iowa, Iowa State Education Association, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, Iowa Citizen Action Network, RuralOrganizing.org, AFSCME Council 61, Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and Progress Iowa.