Washington, D.C. — Today, during the confirmation hearing of Neera Tanden to serve as President Biden’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff secured pledges from Ms. Tanden that funding for HBCUs will be well-represented in the Biden Administration’s future budget requests and that funding for the deepening of the Port of Savannah and for rural hospitals across the state will be key priorities for the Administration.
Georgia is home to ten HBCUs and the Atlanta University Center (“AUC”) Consortium, making Georgia a national HBCU headquarters. Ossoff noted that HBCUs are vital ladders to opportunity for Black Americans — and they are also important drivers of economic opportunity. Tanden agreed and committed that funding for HBCUs was a top priority of hers, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the entire administration.
Additionally, Ossoff discussed the crisis of rural health care in Georgia, with nine rural hospitals closing in the past 10 years, including the Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert, which closed in October. Tanden said that it will be key to sustain rural hospital infrastructure, not just during this crisis but always, and she pledged that funding for rural hospitals would be included in future budgets.
And finally, Ossoff raised funding to complete the deepening of the Port of Savannah, a key infrastructure project to ensure the port can handle larger shipping container vessels and continue to make it one of the fastest growing ports in the country. Tanden committed to working with Ossoff and Savannah Mayor Van Johnson to ensure the project is completed in a timely manner, noting its economic significance for the region.
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Please find a transcript of the exchanges below:
OSSOFF: “Georgia hosts some of the most renowned Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country, and HBCUs play a vital role, not just serving the Black community, but as gems in our nation’s higher education system.
“Will you commit to working with my office to ensure that as the Administration develops its budget request in upcoming years, that the needs of HBCUs are proportionally represented and well represented in the President’s budget request?”
TANDEN: “Senator, as a candidate, President Biden did discuss the vital role HBCUs play, in amongst higher education institutions, from an equity perspective and higher education and, and essentially wealth building over the long term. And so it is a priority for the President and the Vice President, and I would welcome the opportunity to work with you on those issues in supportive HBCUs and the vital role that they play.”
OSSOFF: “I want to discuss rural health care with you for a moment. Georgia has lost nine rural hospitals in the last 10 years. The hospital in Cuthbert, Georgia closed in October — in the middle of the pandemic. Will you commit to working with my office to determine which federal programs are available to surge health care capacity and resources authorized by Congress for the provision of rural health care and rural health clinics in Georgia and rural communities across the country?”
TANDEN: “I will absolutely work with you on this regard. This is an important priority also for President Biden. And if I’m privileged to be confirmed, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you on this, and I would also just say that rural hospitals, rural hospitals are important institutions at all times, but during the COVID crisis to ensure that we are reaching rural communities, it is vital that we have built up the health infrastructure in rural communities so I really welcome the opportunity to work with you on this topic.”
OSSOFF: “I’d also like to discuss the port of Savannah in Georgia. This is one of the most vital transportation infrastructure components in the United States. It handles around 10 percent of all containerized cargo in the United States. It’s one of the largest and fastest growing ports in the world. And it’s vital to Georgia’s economy, to the U.S. economy, it’s also of geopolitical and strategic significance. The project to deepen the port of Savannah is now nearly 40 percent over budget and two years behind schedule, and I was just discussing this this morning with Savannah Mayor Van Johnson. It’s currently scheduled to be completed in January of 2022. Will you take personal responsibility for and commit to working with my office and with Mayor Johnson and local officials in Georgia to ensure that federal resources to complete the deepening of the port of Savannah flow as swiftly and precisely as possible?”
TANDEN: “If I’m confirmed I would welcome the opportunity to work with you and the Mayor to address to ensure that we are working as expeditiously as possible on this port.”