Looking Ahead to the Federal Opportunities in 2021

January 1, 2021, Department, by Elvis Cordova

2021 January Advocacy Looking Ahead 410

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Happy New Year from NRPA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Team! In looking back at 2020, we see a year that was filled with adversity, but one that also provided significant triumphs for our field. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, park and recreation departments all over the nation rose to the challenge (tinyurl.com/y4rb79hd) and served as critical community hubs. Additionally, July brought a major policy win with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (tinyurl.com/y4f2n92y), which provided increased, permanent funding for essential park infrastructure. As we look toward 2021, here is what to expect on the policy front.

The unprecedented 2020 election has come and passed. Despite coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers surging nationwide, it is projected (tinyurl.com/y5rb37v4) that 66.3 percent of eligible voters — more than 150 million people — cast a ballot during this historic election. To avoid long lines and to keep from getting sick, more than 100 million people voted early or by mail (tinyurl.com/y4jgjyyc).

A New Year Brings a New Administration

On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. He will begin his term working alongside the 117th Congress.

The incoming administration will preside over a nation reeling from the pandemic and experiencing its most intense political divide in decades. President-elect Biden hopes to heal the country on both fronts, regardless of political affiliation.

The first agenda item following the inauguration will be passing a comprehensive response package to keep our frontline workers safe and the economy afloat until a vaccine is widely available.

Millions of U.S. residents have been unable to pay their rent, mortgage and utility bills for months due to the pandemic. A major injection of cash is needed to maintain solvency ahead of the expirations of these protections.

The Biden-Harris transition plan calls for massively scaling up COVID-19 testing and replenishing personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as enacting a $25 billion plan to ensure the effective and equitable distribution of a vaccine (tinyurl.com/y6zkwggc). We can expect to see this targeted relief to low-income communities and medical supply funding in an initial package.

Once a vaccine is approved for widespread use and the pandemic has an end in sight, the focus on Capitol Hill will shift toward recovery.

There is no better way to get people back to work than to invest in our aging infrastructure. President-elect Biden has long made ambitious infrastructure spending a key tenet of his platform — even naming his transition website as buildbackbetter.gov.

Park and recreation departments are well-positioned to make significant contributions to both these response and recovery phases.

The Advocacy Work Ahead

As a recovery package is considered down the line, NRPA believes that local parks must be included in discussions about infrastructure. The NRPA report, The Economic Impact of Parks (nrpa.org/EconomicImpact), shows that local and regional parks generate more than $160 billion in economic activity and support more than 1.1 million jobs annually. Local parks also are primed to advance equitable access to public lands and green spaces, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color. We are firmly committed to ensuring that the numerous benefits of outdoor recreation opportunities are provided to all.

There is also much growing evidence that shows how parks are vital for confronting the challenges associated with a changing global climate.

The year ahead looks full of opportunity for strong, meaningful and equitable growth. We will work tirelessly to advance the interest of our members and strengthen NRPA’s profile with policymakers in Washington, D.C.

Mae Stevens and Charlie Moskowitz were a part of the team that composed this article. Both Stevens and Moskowitz are executive vice presidents at the Signal Group, a full-service public relations and communications firm specializing in government relations, strategic communications, public affairs and digital strategy. NRPA is a client of the Signal Group.

Elvis Cordova is NRPA’s Vice President of Public
Policy and Advocacy (ecordova@nrpa.org).