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May 26, 2022, 9:17 a.m. EDT

Jobs from Washington’s big infrastructure law will be ‘more fairly distributed’ thanks to this one provision, advocates say

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By Victor Reklaitis

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Related: Here’s how Biden could move to cancel student loans

But Turmail is downbeat on the local hire provision’s potential impact.

“You’re just stopping projects from happening in your community, or you’re making them more expensive, because firms won’t be able to hire the folks that they need to comply with a local hire agreement — which means that the project doesn’t happen, or the firm doing the work is gonna pay all kinds of fines and penalties,” he said.

Jobs to Move America, for its part, argues that costs won’t go up, pointing to its recent analysis of a Transportation Department local hiring pilot program.

“We compared projects that had used local hire to projects that did not use local hire to see if it had any effect on the number of bidders on the project, or the overall cost of the project, and we found that there was no effect,” said Nelson, the organization’s national program director. “If anything, slightly more bidders had bid on projects with local hire in them.”

What’s next

It’s “a significant step” to have the language on local hire and targeted hire in “the largest infrastructure bill in the history of our country,” said Finfer of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network. “But the devil is in the details,” he added.

As states get their infrastructure projects going, his group is now working with its partners in different places to make sure they talk to their local transit officials about implementing local and targeted hiring. “That’s going to be crucial,” Finfer said.

Moreover, the provisions only relate to Transportation Department projects and not other types of work, even as the bipartisan infrastructure package calls for spending on not just roads and bridges but also broadband, water facilities and more.

“We want to see local hire extended to other aspects of infrastructure,” Nelson said.

Related: Here’s what’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill — and how it’s paid for

Dozens of Democratic lawmakers agree with that view. Rep. Karen Bass of California and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York teamed up with more than 70 colleagues to send a letter last month to the White House’s budget office calling for updated regulations that allow states and localities do local and targeted hiring on all federally funded projects.

That party is expected to lose control of the House and possibly the Senate in November’s midterm elections, but analysts have said that could mean an increased focus on Biden’s powers as president and federal agencies’ moves .

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