Federal Money Is All Over Milwaukee. Biden Hopes Voters Will Notice.

Across Milwaukee, residents can see evidence of federal money from laws passed under the Biden administration, if they know where to look.

It shows up in a growing array of solar panels near the airport. Ramshackle houses rehabilitated and sold to first-time buyers. The removal of lead paint and pipes. The demolition of a derelict mall. A crime lab and emergency management center. A clinic and food pantry for people with H.I.V. Funding to help dozens of nonprofits provide services like violence prevention efforts and after-school programs.

But of the more than $1 billion for Milwaukee County in the American Rescue Plan Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act — legislation that President Biden counts among his greatest accomplishments — much is harder to see, like funds to prevent drastic cuts to public safety during the pandemic. Some money has yet to be spent, like $3.5 million to rebuild the penguin exhibit at the local zoo and $5.1 million to repair the roof of Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.

That presents both an opportunity and a challenge to Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign as it seeks to show Americans how federal investments have improved their lives. Doing so is difficult because the laws delegated many spending decisions to state and local officials, obscuring the money’s source.

“The link between the resources themselves and anything that happens on the ground that’s visible to people is very opaque,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “You need to find some way to communicate this idea that there’s concrete progress within people’s communities that improves quality of life — and that there’s more coming.”

Vivent Health, a newly constructed facility in Milwaukee that offers services to people with H.I.V.Credit…Sara Stathas for The New York Times
Solar panels installed atop the Milwaukee Central Library, which includes a green roof.Credit…Sara Stathas for The New York Times
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