Local Colorado leaders gather at the White House to discuss federal funds

Joe Biden
Andrew Harnik/AP Photo
President Joe Biden speaks about the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.

More than a dozen local Colorado leaders were at the White House Friday, as part of the “Communities in Action” forum.

Among the elected Coloradans there were  Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar, Superior Mayor Clint Folsom, Lafayette Mayor JD Mangat, state Sen. Jeff Bridges and Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence. Also on hand were officials from community organizations ranging from Colorado AARP and labor unions to Hunger Free Colorado and United Way Denver.

A White House official said the gathering was an opportunity for local leaders and administration representatives to speak about President Joe Biden’s economic plan. The event focused on how bills like the CHIPS Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act have helped communities. 

Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar said the White House wanted to make sure the federal funds are being put to good use. 

“These are one-time funds that I think that they expect us to invest in programs…that will generate long-term benefits for our citizens and our communities,” he said.

Gradisar said he pointed out how a local renewable energy company, CS Wind, announced plans to double capacity once federal renewable energy tax credits were put in place. He added that he got ideas from hearing how other officials were using their federal funds.

State Sen. Jeff Bridges, who represents the south metro Denver area, said Colorado has received lots of federal dollars over the last four years, and it was important to talk about the impact. 

“We’ve been really thoughtful about how we spend those dollars as a legislature, focusing on workforce development, housing and behavioral health care,” he said. “And for folks inside the beltway, they don’t often get to see the impact of the dollars.”

While some Republicans might focus on the price tags of these laws, Bridges stressed they were necessary investments in the face of a global pandemic.

Like Gradisar and Bridges, Mangat said he was excited to participate in the discussion.

“I felt like it was a good opportunity to put Lafayette on a national scale, just to be able to talk to some pretty influential folks about federal funds,” he said.

Mangat said his city has used American Rescue Plan funding to help with affordable housing and water infrastructure, among other things.

Some of the administration officials on hand Friday included Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Assistant to the President & Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Director Julie Rodriguez. They were expected to highlight how the bills can help local economies through job creation and manufacturing incentives, as well as steps the administration is taking to lower costs for people across the country.

This was the fourth “Communities in Action” forum held thus far. The White House has been inviting leaders from different regions of the country. Friday’s session included Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. The series started with leaders from Ohio. The White House said the end goal is to have all 50 states, Puerto Rico, tribal communities and the territories participate.

CPR's Dan Boyce contributed to this story.