The Biden administration plans to use the month of April to highlight the investments and initiatives included in the 2021 infrastructure package, including a Monday event in Colorado aimed at forest fire management and other rural projects.

The series of announcements and events feature cabinet members and President Joe Biden himself – he’s scheduled to travel to Des Moines, Iowa on Tuesday afternoon. During his trip to the Hawkeye state, Biden will speak at a POET facility in nearby Menlo, Iowa. 

Biden will be visiting a biofuel facility at a time when a long list of lawmakers and industry groups are pleading with the administration to use emergency authority to allow summertime sales of higher ethanol blends. Multiple administration officials have confirmed a look into the move, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan told a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing last week a change to more E15 sales could provide a "less expensive option" at the pump.

The tour comes as the administration also rolls out an outline of the various investments in the law targeted to rural communities. The White House playbook includes information on many different programs and across different agencies and is “intended to help rural communities understand the available funding” and to offer “information on the ‘what, where, and how’ to apply for federal infrastructure dollars.”

“These generational infrastructure investments will provide rural communities across America affordable high-speed internet, clean drinking water, reliable electricity, better roads and bridges, and good-paying jobs,” Biden said in a statement. “Strong infrastructure in rural communities is good for jobs, good for keeping the economy moving, good for lowering prices, and good for America.”

The tour kicks off in Colorado today, where Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Forest Service Chief Randy Moore and others will “outline our shared vision for bolstering resilience and investing in firefighters,” Haaland told reporters Monday. 

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack was scheduled to take part in the event prior to his positive COVID-19 test announced over the weekend. Speaking to reporters Monday, he signaled a May timeframe for the announcement of about 1,500 additional Forest Service firefighters “so we’re in a better position to be responsive to the multiple fires that we no doubt will deal with during this very difficult fire year that’s ahead of us.”

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According to White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, the tour will also include stops in Indiana by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and a Nevada and Arizona leg of the trip by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. A White House release also says Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Regan will also take part in the tour.

Other officials plan to visit “over 30 communities over the next several weeks,” Landrieu said. The month of April will include $2 billion in infrastructure announcements, he added.

One such announcement came in the form of a $1 billion America the Beautiful challenge, a public-private grant program administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Haaland said the initiative is aimed at leveraging funding to “support voluntary, locally-led conservation efforts across the country.” DOI, she said, would contribute $375 million to the program over the next five years.

Requests for proposals for the challenge are expected to go out in early May with funding expected to be allocated sometime in November. 

All told, Vilsack said the investments in things like forest health, rural broadband, and traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges should be better understood once the national outreach takes place throughout the month.

“This is the most significant investment in rural people and places probably since the Depression,” Vilsack said. “I think this tour is going to allow us to make sure that people are not only aware of these investments, but with the playbook and other steps that the administration is going to take, we’re going to make sure rural America takes full and complete advantage of this historic opportunity.”

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