Cicilline, Reed, Whitehouse Introduce Bills in House and Senate to Generate Millions in Federal Funding for Southern New England

PAWTUCKET – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) and Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse introduced legislation today to establish a regional commission encompassing Rhode Island and surrounding counties in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Southern New England Regional Commission Act will allow jurisdictions at different levels to work together to leverage federal support to strengthen the area’s economy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that problems do not end at state borders. When local, state, and the federal governments work together across state lines, we are able to tackle the enormous challenges that affect us all,” Congressman Cicilline said. “This bill will allow our communities in Southern New England to band together as a commission with the support of federal resources to address the major issues facing our region and implement a sustainable plan that will recover our economy, protect our environment, and create jobs for years to come.”

“We need to ensure Rhode Island has access to every economic tool in the toolkit. The federal-multi-state commission created by this bill will enable coordinated investments in community projects that build on regional strengths to help spur economic development in communities where the need is greatest,” said Senator Reed.

“Working across state lines with our neighbors in southern New England, there’s a lot of potential to grow the regional economy and leverage additional federal funding in Rhode Island,” said Whitehouse. “Congressman Cicilline is the driving force behind this effort, and I’m proud to introduce the Senate companion to his legislation.”

Federal regional commissions and authorities address perceived regional economic underdevelopment. These organizations generally accommodate multileveled and multijurisdictional participation and implementation, which Congress can utilize to address the growing interest in broad-based and intensive economic development efforts.

This legislation will establish a regional commission covering Rhode Island and surrounding counties in Massachusetts and Connecticut for purposes of promoting economic development in renewable energy, defense manufacturing, the maritime economy, infrastructure, and job training, among others. The legislation will allow jurisdictions at different levels to work together with federal support to strengthen the area’s economy.

The Southern New England Regional Commission would be similar to the Northern Border Regional Commission, which was created in 2008 to alleviate economic distress in northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. Administrative costs of implementing a strategic plan to modernize infrastructure, create jobs, and prepare for and capitalize on shifting economic trends are shared equally between the states and the federal government, while activities are federally funded. The Northern Border Regional Commission received an appropriation of $20 million in Fiscal Year 2019.

Cicilline introduced the Southern New England Regional Commission Act in the House of Representatives with the support of Representatives Richard Neal (MA-01), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), and Joe Courtney (CT-02).

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