In April 2022, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced $189 million for 154 Next Level broadband expansion projects, this coming atop a $100 million program in 2019. But on a helicopter flight coming back from Evansville in late June, there was yet another high-five moment. The governor had received word from U.S. Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo that Indiana would be receiving $868 million to extend high-speed internet to the proverbial “last mile.”
“What this announcement means for people across the country is that if you don’t have access to quality, affordable high-speed Internet service now — you will, thanks to President Biden and his commitment to investing in America,” said Raimondo, a former colleague of Holcomb’s when she was governor of Rhode Island. “Just like the Rural Electrification Act a century ago and the Interstate Highway System that followed it, this is our generation’s opportunity for a transformational infrastructure investment.”
Holcomb was ecstatic, calling this motherlode of federal funding a “game changer.”
“While 92% of Hosier households use devices to connect to the World Wide Web, 14% of Indiana households do not have access. … The new federal funding will empower the program to expand broadband in the coming years and give more Hoosiers the power of connectivity.”
These were funds forged by Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) passed by Congress on party-line votes and signed into law in late 2021, which only Indiana Democrat Reps. Andre Carson and Frank Mrvan helped pass.
But this latest $868 million is only a fraction of federal funds flowing into Indiana since Biden took office in 2021.
Last month, it was announced Indiana’s Family Social Services Administration would receive $29 million in funding for opioid crisis response and substance use disorder services.
There is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that is expected to bring Indiana $6.9 billion over five years in Federal highway formula funding for highways and bridges.
And then there is the American Rescue Plan, passed in 2021 as part of COVID-19 pandemic relief. Its Indiana impact include:
It funded the $500 million first round of Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), which has generated billions of dollars in additional investments.
The state’s unemployment rate has fallen from 4.7% in January 2021 to 3.1% in December 2022 (it stood at 3.2% in June).
There have been a record 170,000 new small business applications in Indiana.
ARP provided direct pandemic recovery funds to all 625 Indiana towns, cities and counties — avoiding cuts and investing in public safety, housing, workforce development and other critical areas.
Over 280 school districts in Indiana were provided funding to support academic recovery and student mental health and reopen safely.
3,270 child care programs in Indiana received support and 822,000 working families got relief through the expanded child tax credit.
Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, co-authored by U.S. Sen. Todd Young (but without the support of most of the Indiana GOP congressional delegation) in August 2022, leading to announcements of $2 billion in investment that will create more than 1,000 jobs..
The Nasdaq-100 finished the first half of 2023 with a gain of 39.4%, compared to the S&P 500’s gain of 16.9%. According to CNBC, the Dow closed at 35,438.07 on a recent Wednesday, its 12th consecutive daily gain, but a tad below its historic high of 36,799.65 on Jan. 4, 2022.
So far, all of this economic news isn’t translating into solid political support for Biden, who led former President Trump 49%-44% in a recent hypothetical general election Quinnipiac Poll.
Clearly, the White House and Biden reelection campaign have a messaging dilemma. This prompted Axios to observe on July 14: “If you spend your life looking at economic data, these look like the best of times: Inflation is a mere 3%. Unemployment is hovering near 50-year lows. But that’s not how the bulk of Americans see it. Americans’ views of the economy are colored by their politics as much as the actual state of the economy.”
Bringing home the bacon … doesn’t it mean what it used to.
Brian Howey is managing editor of Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs at StateAffairs.com/pro/Indiana, where this column was previously published. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol. Send comments to [email protected].