The compromise version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which President Obama is expected to sign on Tuesday, contains several programs that have been priorities for the Washington-based National League of Cities (NLC), the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the National Association of Counties (NACo). The bill's inclusion of new funding for infrastructure, housing, public safety, health and renewable energy is what cities and the nation need to begin pulling out of the recession, NLC Executive Director Donald Borut wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

The compromise ARRA includes more than $56 billion for various infrastructure projects, such as road modernization, transit, drinking water system improvements and public housing projects. To ease the credit crunch, ARRA provides incentives for banks to buy municipal bonds by allowing them to deduct the interest paid, and it includes a provision to exclude private activity bond interest from the alternative minimum tax, according to NLC.

USCM President and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz released a statement late Friday commending Congress for passing ARRA, saying it includes many parts of USCM's "Mayors' Ten Point Plan, Strong Cities, Strong Families for a Strong America." "One of the most important aspects of this agreement is that it funds a new sector of green jobs through an Energy Block Grant, enabling cities to continue with the local energy conservation efforts already under way," Diaz said in a statement. "This block grant will support the mayors' local efforts to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate the deployment of new and alternative energy practices."

In his letter to House and Senate members last week, Borut wrote that NLC agreed with President Obama that, "we must act boldly and now to turn around the economy and improve our nation's competitiveness." "[ARRA] calls for investments in several areas key to quality of life in our communities, including direct investment in ready-to-go highway, bridge, transit, airport, water, sewer, housing and energy efficient infrastructure projects," he wrote.

In a statement, NACo Executive Director Larry E. Naake said the legislation "will benefit thousands of struggling counties across America." "It includes sorely needed federal funding to help counties reinvest in their ailing infrastructure, overburdened health care and justice systems and many other programs essential to serving local communities," Naake said.

Borut's letter and more information on what ARRA may mean to cities is available at www.nlc.org.

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