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Delaware officials, nonprofit leaders visit White House

Katie Tabeling
President Biden in Washington DC

President Joe Biden met with Delaware leaders in the White House on April 13 as part of the Communities in Action forum. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ZAKIYYAH ALI

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has come to his home state many times for business and pleasure in the last four years. But last week, Delaware leaders met with the president on Capitol Hill.

Roughly 60 nonprofit heads, government leaders and activists from the First State went to the White House on April 13 for the latest round of the president’s Communities in Action program.  Launched by the Clinton White House, the program includes a half-day forum for state and local leaders to see how Biden’s policies are impacting day-to-day life.

So far, the Biden administration has met with leaders and activists from 30 states.

“We’re not accustomed to seeing federal emails come through, so when we did receive it, I had to take a minute,” joked Zakiyyah Ali, the executive director of the Tech Council of Delaware. The Tech Council of Delaware formed last year as a way to promote the First State’s growing tech industry and workforce development needs.

“I do think sometimes that because we’re new, we can get overlooked. But to be invited was really special and overwhelming for us,” Ali told the Delaware Business Times.

Delaware’s day at the White House included forums on gun violence prevention as well as the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs on community issues. Top Biden initiatives such as federal funding through the bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the American Rescue Plan and the CHIPS and Science Act were also highlighted.

Biden himself made a visit, making a speech on his own start in local politics, working his way to federal office  — and how community leaders can make a difference in a person’s life.

“We elected officials and community leaders to be stewards of this federal funding from the Biden-Harris administration, and the president pointed out that these are once-in-a-lifetime funding opportunities to better Americans’ lives,” Ali said. “One thing he said to me that resonated was that being a public servant should be about doing what’s right for the people we serve.”

As the Tech Council of Delaware forges on in efforts to tap into the Greater Philadelphia Region Precision Medicine Tech Hub, Ali said that the plan is to work to secure funding through Digital Equity funding originating from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act through the Delaware Broadband Office.

For other nonprofits like the United Way of Delaware, this was not the first trip to the White House. This marked the second time for United Way of Delaware Executive Director Michelle Taylor, but with so many colleagues from her home state with her, the energy in the room was different.

“It was exciting, feeling that we had this common mission of leveraging our resources to make Delaware stronger. It was humbling to be in that room with so many amazing individuals,” Taylor told DBT.

In particular, Taylor learned that the $750 million set aside for gun violence prevention also includes mental health services. She said she and her team will be weighing opportunities to increase access to mental health services in middle and elementary schools.

“It got me thinking about what our role could be in Delaware to get that information out to our community and making sure people know where they can go and get help. How do we use it around our advocacy work with our partners with the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence,” she said.

Other key stakeholders in organizations like the Wilmington Alliance, the WRK Group, Philanthropy Delaware, Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence,  Wilmington Urban League and more were also on Capitol Hill that day. 

For others like WRK Group CEO Logan Herring, who marked his fifth trip to the White House, the forum also shined a light on out-of-the-box solutions to reduce costs for programs. 

The WRK Group is in the middle of building $300 million in mixed-income housing in Wilmington as part of the nonprofit’s ambitious REACH Riverside redevelopment program. Herring sees potential for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund within the Inflation Reduction Act.

Herring said that the visit to the White House means that the WRK Group’s work is being recognized on a national level.

“More importantly, we are seen as an effort to be included in the conversation and to be seen as an example of what is possible when you have a working relationship with the Biden Administration,” he told DBT.

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