Vice President Kamala Harris plugs economy in latest Wisconsin visit

Harris says Biden administration is 'dropping trillions of dollars on the streets of America' for infrastructure, climate crisis

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks Thursday, May 16, 2024, at Discovery World in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

With the economy continuing to dominate discussion during the presidential campaign, Vice President Kamala Harris was back in Wisconsin on Thursday to promote the idea that Biden administration policies are making a positive impact.

It was the latest stop in a recent string of high profile visits ahead of the presidential election this fall. President Joe Biden and Harris have campaigned heavily on the economy in recent stops in Wisconsin, touting the administration’s investments in infrastructure and jobs training programs.

“We are dropping trillions of dollars on the streets of America right now, to build back up our roads and our bridges, our sidewalks, to invest in the clean energy economy, to deal with the climate crisis in a way that is about building up adaptation and resilience,” Harris said during a moderated conversation with comedian and actor D.L. Hughley at Discovery World in downtown Milwaukee.

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While the administration has continued to promote its initiatives, the message does not seem to be making an impact on voters. A recent Marquette University Law School poll found Wisconsin residents favored former President Donald Trump on the economy over Biden by a 52-34 margin. That poll also found the economy was the “top-rated issue” for voters ahead of the election.

Harris’ visit was part of her “Economic Opportunity Tour.” She focused on making sure people and small businesses know about the opportunities and grants available to them. Harris said investing in small businesses is a point of emphasis for the Biden-Harris administration.

“It is about investing in America’s prosperity and a broad-based economy, but it’s also about investing in communities and the civic fabrics of communities,” Harris said about small business growth.

In her discussion with Hughley, Harris talked about issues around homeownership for people of color, bringing up issues of segregation and redlining, as well as “racial bias in home appraisals.”

Her tour is aimed at discussing how the Biden-Harris administration is “investing in communities, building wealth, and ensuring every American has the ability to thrive,” according to the White House.

Comedian D.L. Hughley, left, and Vice President Kamala Harris, right, have a conversation Thursday, May 16, 2024, at Discovery World in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR
Comedian D.L. Hughley, left, and Vice President Kamala Harris, right, prepare to take a selfie on stage with the crowd in the background Thursday, May 16, 2024, at Discovery World in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

But Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair Brian Schimming painted a different picture before the visit.

“Every time Kamala Harris visits Wisconsin, voters are reminded of the failed agenda of the Biden Administration,” Schimming said in a statement. “From higher inflation to lower wages, voters know they cannot afford another four years of Biden and Harris in the White House.”

Biden is narrowly leading Trump in the latest polling from NPR and Marist College. That national poll found Biden leading Trump 50 percent to 48 percent among registered voters.

HUD announces $40M for housing counseling services

As part of Thursday’s visit, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced $40 million in awards to 165 housing counseling services across the nation. That money is aimed at helping home buyers “improve their credit, develop a budget, find down payment assistance programs, understand loan terms and types of mortgages, and identify housing discrimination.”

Wisconsin will received around $300,000 through that program. HUD Acting Secretary Adrianne Todman said the counseling services can help people who feel “housing instable or want to become a homeowner.”

“So if there’s a tenant who doesn’t think they can pay their rent, if there’s a first-time potential homeowner who wants to figure out where can I get payment assistance … that’s what the $300,000 will go towards,” Todman said.

Acting Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Adrianne Todman greets attendees before Vice President Kamala Harris speaks Thursday, May 16, 2024, at Discovery World in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Trena Bond, the executive director of Milwaukee based Housing Resources Inc., said that organization will receive some of that funding. It primarily works with first-time buyers, providing resources like down payment assistance along with education on the home-buying process. After clients buy homes, she said the organization works to help them stay in their home and maintain it.

“A lot of people don’t know about how to to go about purchasing homes, especially a majority of our clients who are Black and brown residents of Milwaukee,” Bond said.

Bond said there used to be around 15 housing counseling services in the city. Now, she said there are less than five.

“These funds can help us build our capacity which we need to help people, because there is such a huge demand for homeownership,” she said.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, center, takes photos with people before Vice President Kamala Harris speaks Thursday, May 16, 2024, at Discovery World in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Trip is the latest in recent high profile stops

It was the vice president’s fourth stop in Wisconsin this year.

Harris was last in Wisconsin on April 22, when she met with certified nurse aides and labor union leaders in La Crosse to celebrate new federal rules for long-term care facilities and at-home services. She also announced an apprenticeship program for the federal workforce while in Madison in March.

The visit comes a week after President Joe Biden was in Racine County to praise plans from Microsoft to expand its data center footprint in Mount Pleasant. 

Trump was also in Waukesha this month on a campaign stop while on a break from his criminal trial.

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