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Beyond Talking Points: Climate Financing and the Role of Federal Incentives

Duke in DC’s latest Beyond Talking Points program featured discussion about climate financing and the role of federal incentives in the wake of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which some argue is the largest investment by the federal government into climate resilience efforts.

Our panel of Duke experts, including the Nicholas Institute’s Jackson Ewing, the Pratt School for Engineering’s Judy Ledlee, Duke Law’s Lee Reiners and moderated by the Nicholas School for Environment’s Interim Dean Lori Bennear, discussed what we mean when we say climate finance, the work already being done in the public and private sectors and how crucial incentivizing investment at the policy-making level will be to the future of planet earth.

Recommendations to policymakers as conversations continue about climate financing:

Judy Ledlee

“Continue funding, research funding, and translational funding that brings communities to the table, as part of the solutions development. I think making this, climate tech revolution more equitable and bringing more people to the table would be my dream.”

Jackson Ewing

“Improve implementation capacity at your subnational levels, which is the jurisdictions that you’re operating within. We need more people and resources at the state and municipal levels to implement these policies.”

Lee Reiners

“I do think, climate risk is financial risk, and it is important for companies to disclose this information. It is relevant.”

On the Inflation Reduction Act and mobilizing its capital:

Lee Reiners

“These funds will be delivered through a mix of tax incentives, grants, and loan guarantees. Clean electricity and transmission command the biggest slice of those incentives followed by clean transportation, including, electric vehicle incentives. In terms of incentives for private investment, the biggest are, the investment tax credit and the production tax credit, both of which have been around for a while. And the IRA extended them through the end of 2024 and then created two, technology-neutral credits to replace them for projects placed in service starting in 2025.”

On the complications of implementing the IRA:

Jackson Ewing

“We’ve been talking a lot about the incentives that make up the bulk of the IRA, which are enormously important. They are only as strong as kind of the regulatory and business environment in which they’re operating. And so you still have the existence of bottlenecks that limit the amount of infrastructure that can be built. And so by extension, the amount of finance that can be deployed for that purpose. I think that the top of that list is permitting. And so, you know, when I mentioned previously that if we really are serious about scaling up our domestic production and deployment of many of these industries and technologies from batteries to solar, to wind, to larger transportation, electrification, etcetera, that we’re going to have to, move away from our sources of the minerals and metals and other inputs, that we currently use, for those products and start to develop more of them here in the US.”

Judy Ledlee

“Getting this additional funding into research is really, catalyzing and inspiring a lot of research in crucial areas like energy storage, hydrogen, even fusion, grid management. So getting this research and these innovations, the core technologies developed is incredibly powerful. And then secondly, helping these translational efforts going beyond research into actually, creating companies and around implementing these technologies and getting them out in the real world. And so what’s really important here is actually having government funding, like was mentioned earlier, de-risk some of these solutions so that, you know, private funding can come in afterward. And it’s so important as we think about climate tech, it’s hard tech and requires so much capital to start up and also long-term stability for these fundings so that people can develop plans around them. You know, starting with Solar Jet takes years in order to just set the groundwork for it, you know, so long-term funding, probably a lot of funding, and examples of this that I’ve seen, you know, coming from even the Chips Act is this new, NSF regional engine program that is, an exciting way of spring economic growth and localized communities actually, providing like $160,000,000 for up to 10 years for regional innovation ecosystems. And this isn’t particular to climate tech, but it’s, a really good mechanism to inspire climate tech because it has that large, large dollar amount and longer timeline as well.”

On public-private sector investments:

Lee Reiners

“It’s probably not an either-or, it’s probably a both. And so what circumstances make sense for federal investment versus private sector investment? Yeah. It’s definitely a both. So the reality is that given, the scale of the of the issue, you know, this is not something that the government can solve on its own, certainly given, debt constraints, and it’s something that the private sector can’t solve on its own. So you really need both the government and the private sector working together, and that’s what you see, with those capital flowing into clean power and deep capital flowing into clean power and decarbonization, but there’s not because of risk-return profiles, you know, don’t meet investors’ criteria. So, you know, the end goal really is so, you know, these IRA programs are designed to either increase returns, right, for, private capital providers, reduce risk, or both with, you know, the hope that it sort of crowds in. Private capital is a term you hear a lot. And so, hopefully, you know, once that happens, you will drive down the cost of these projects and technologies so they get to the point of what we call bankability, simply meaning that these projects and technologies can get private capital on their own and kind of stand on their own two feet.”

On equitable access to climate financing solutions:

Judy Ledlee

“How can we actually ensure that those climate tech solutions are equitable and accessible to all communities, particularly to marginalized or vulnerable populations? With climate tech, while the core technologies can be used anywhere, actually implementing these solutions will require localized special knowledge because they have to interact with the natural environment in any different location is gonna have its own nuances there. So it’s a way that we can really bring a lot of people to the table that weren’t necessarily part of the digital revolution. And so I hear like I want to encourage policymakers and, funders to really prioritize efforts that bring diverse groups of communities to the table for these tech transfer and commercialization opportunities. We want to create a new generation of leaders who can, help champion their solutions in their particular locations as well as also bring in, communities who who weren’t at the table for part of it and, for, like, the digital revolution.”

Jackson Ewing

“Historically, we’ve seen, you know, it’s been easier to cite certain types of facilities in places that, have lower socioeconomic status or, are, linguistically isolated. And one of the goals or the hopes with the clean energy transition is that we’ll be able to reduce that kind of energy injustice, the so-called energy sacrifice zones. But the sort of permitting issues that you’re talking about now perhaps suggest that we could end up repeating some of those mistakes.”

Jackson Ewing | Director of Energy and Climate Policy | Nicholas School of the Environment

Jackson Ewing is director of energy and climate policy at the Nicholas Institute of Energy, Environment & Sustainability at Duke University. He is also an adjunct associate professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment and a faculty affiliate with the Duke Center for International Development at the Sanford School of Public Policy. He works closely with the Duke Kunshan University Environmental Research Center and International Masters of Environmental Policy programs to build policy research collaboration across Duke platforms in the United States and China. He holds a doctorate in environmental security and master’s degree in international relations from Australia’s Bond University, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of Charleston. 

Judy Ledlee |Executive Director of Design Climate | Nicholas School of the Environment

Judy Ledlee, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Design Climate and is passionate about cleantech innovation and commercialization. Judy developed her passion for cleantech innovation during her doctoral studies at Duke University where she researched emerging water treatment technologies. From her work, she co-founded a startup for hydraulic fracturing wastewater recycling. After graduating, she continued her cleantech career in the water industry working for Evoqua (now Dupont and Xylem), Black & Veatch, and ZwitterCo. Throughout her career, she’s continued working on entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial activities and is excited to return to Duke and create opportunities for new generations of students to develop innovations for addressing climate challenges. She holds a Ph.D. and Masters from Duke University and her Bachelor of Science from Tufts University.

Lee Reiners |Lecturing Fellow, Financial Economics Center and School of Law

Lee Reiners is a lecturing fellow at the Duke Financial Economics Center and at Duke Law. At Duke, Reiners has taught classes on FinTech Law and Policy, Cryptocurrency Law and Policy, Financial Regulatory Policy, Climate Change and Financial Markets, and Cybersecurity Law and Policy. His broad research agenda focuses on how new financial technologies and climate change fit within existing regulatory frameworks. He holds a master’s in Public Policy from Duke University.

Moderated by:

Lori Bennear | Professor of Energy Economics and Policy | Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment

Lori Bennear’s research focuses on evaluating environmental policies and improving methods and techniques for conducting evaluations. While the field of policy evaluation is a broad one, her specific niche is in bringing rigorous quantitative methods to evaluate environmental policy innovations along four dimensions (1) Evaluating the effectiveness of environmental policies and programs, (2) Evaluating strategic behavioral responses to non-traditional regulatory regimes, (3) Assessing the distributional impacts of these new regulatory regimes and (4) Evaluating the role of program evaluation in environmental policy. She holds a Ph.D. from Harvard and Masters from Yale University.

In case you missed it, watch the full conversation here.

Legislative Activity in Washington DC: Reviewing 2023 and Looking Ahead to 2024

As Congress returns to session in the new year, let us catch you up to speed on where they and the rest of the federal government left off at the end of 2023.

We shared our last legislative activity updates in April and, since that time, Congress was simultaneously very busy while not being overly productive regarding appropriations—it averted two potential shutdowns, elected a new House Speaker and saw new federal appointments.

Let’s start with appropriations.

Budget and Appropriations

In March 2023, President Joe Biden released his FY24 budget proposal, which was expected to launch the year-long federal appropriations process.

That process was complicated by stalemates in both the House and the Senate, bringing forth the first government shutdown threat in October. It was narrowly avoided when Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) that allowed elected officials to continue conversations and negotiations about funding bills with the hope of reaching a consensus before the CR ran out on November 17th. The process was further slowed by the election of new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) following the ousting of former Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

Congress passed a second CR, this time a two-tiered approach. The House and Senate have until January 19 to work out an agreement on the Agriculture-FDA, Energy-Water, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD spending bills. The remaining eight spending bills— Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS-Education, Legislative Branch and State-Foreign Operations—have funding until February 2.

Congressional leaders recently struck an agreement on the topline funding levels for the FY 24 bills, which will provide the framework for appropriations leaders to negotiate and finalize spending bills. However, another CR will most likely be needed to provide time for the final bills to be written.

Here’s a breakdown of where things stand for programs of interest to the Duke community:


The second half of 2023 saw a notable focus in the federal government toward the nation’s research initiatives, including artificial intelligence (AI), quantum, and efforts to fund the CHIPS and Science Act fully.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced initial plans over the summer to start regulating AI and hosted a series of forums during the fall to help educate senators and staff on the wide-ranging aspects of AI. President Biden also issued the first-ever executive order on AI, which puts forward new standards for AI safety and security, privacy protection and more.

In the early part of the year, The Biden-Harris administration, through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, launched the first CHIPS for America funding opportunity for manufacturing incentives to restore U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing. The CHIPS and Science Act was originally signed into law in August of 2022. The Department of Defense announced that under the CHIPS and Science Act, “the award of nearly $240 million to eight regional ‘innovation hubs’ around the United States which will be a part of the Microelectronics Commons.” One of the hubs is slated to come to North Carolina.

While the progress is commendable, more can be done to further the efforts of the CHIPS and Science Act by fully funding the science portion of the law. Duke President Vincent Price wrote on the subject in an op-ed for the Raleigh News and Observer.

Foreign Influences and Research Security

The House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) issued a list last month outlining a potential blueprint that would help the United States “reset” its economic relationship with China through updated research security measures and tightening the export of technology.

The Defending Education Transparency and Ending Rogue Regimes Engaging in Nefarious Transactions (DETERRENT) Act was passed by the House in December. This legislation would greatly expand disclosure requirements under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act, which governs the disclosure of foreign gifts and contracts by institutions of higher education. The American Council on Education (ACE) wrote a letter in opposition to the DETERRENT Act, citing concerns that, “we believe the DETERRENT Act is duplicative of existing interagency efforts, unnecessary, and puts in place a problematic expansion of the data collection by the U.S. Department of Education that will broadly curtail important needed international research collaboration and academic and cultural exchanges.”

Student Aid

One major development that occurred in the latter half of 2023: the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act. The House Education and Workforce Committee recently passed the act with the goal of allowing students to use their Pell eligibility to support endeavors in short-term training.
It would be an unprecedented step to deny students access to federal programs based on the institution they chose to attend.

Duke supports the creation of the short-term Pell as it is likely to be accessed by many in Durham and across North Carolina and provide thousands of individuals with important training needed for crucial careers in our growing economy.

If the bill becomes law, over 3,400 Duke students will lose access to these loans – and likely forced to borrow from bank-based lending programs that are more expensive and sometimes hard to access. These programs also lack income-based repayment plans or access to other benefits seen in the federal programs. Duke University School of Medicine Dean Mary E. Klotman and Duke University School of Nursing Interim Dean Michael Relf highlight just what kind of impact that can have on the future of our workforce.

Of other items related to student aid, the Department of Education announced along with its regulatory agenda at the end of 2023 that the final regulations on two Title IX rules would be once again delayed to March of next year. The ED had initially proposed the updates in July of 2022 but was inundated with public comment delaying a decision.

Also facing roadblocks: President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program. The House voted to repeal President Joe Biden’s student loan repayment plan in early December, with a vote to withdraw the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan, an income-driven repayment plan for student loans.

After several delays and setbacks, the Education Department officially released the new FAFSA application form in the final hours of 2023, three months later than its typical October 1 release. Despite this announcement, another hurdle is expected to come in the form of processing delays.


Just before Thanksgiving, more than 64 higher education institutions signed a letter urging the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to extend the visa interview waiver authorities. The waivers allow for authorities to forego in-person interviews for “certain low-risk visa applications.” Thankfully, the Department of State confirmed its plans to extend the waivers, which were set to expire on December 31, 2023.

The Department of State also announced at the end of the year its plans for a pilot program that will allow domestic visa renewals for qualified H–1B nonimmigrant visa applicants who meet certain requirements. The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers with specialized skills to work in the United States for a specific period of time. Typically, the roles require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. The pilot program resurrects one that had previously ended in 2004 and allows certain H-1B visa holders to renew their applications domestically in the U.S. without having to travel abroad to a consulate.

Federal Appointments and Roles

Biden Administration

Several Duke Alumni have been appointed to positions in President Biden’s administration, including Stefanie Feldman PPS’10 who was named director of the new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Kate Klimczak MPP’12 was appointed as the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Associate Director for Legislative Policy and Analysis and Director of the NIH Office of Legislative Policy and Analysis (OLPA).

Another appointment of note includes Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, who now serves as the newest director of the NIH. She succeeds Francis Collins who stepped down in 2021.


In case you missed it—here are the Congressional appointments for the 118th Congress as of our last update.

Other Congressional Engagement

Duke professors were well-represented on the Hill last year, with several traveling to Washington D.C. to participate in showcases, meet with staffers and testify before congressional committees.

Professors Yiran Chen and Jeffrey Krolik participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Artificial Intelligence Showcase, highlighting their work with the Pratt School of Engineering’s Athena program. Chen and Krolik also met with congressional staffers as part of a Coalition for National Science Funding advocacy day. Chen was also appointed to serve on the first steering committee for the Academic Alliance for AI Policy, led by Syracuse University.

In the Senate’s AI Insight Forums, Professor Cynthia Rudin provided testimony at the seventh event focused on transparency, explainability, intellectual property and copyright. Professor Jian Pei, chair of Duke’s Computer Science Department, traveled to Washington as part of an advocacy fly-in sponsored by the Computing Research Association.

Other faculty testimonies can be found here, including Jimmie Lenz’s on “Modernizing Financial Services Through Innovation and Competition,” and Stephen Roady’s at a legislative hearing for the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries.

Back in Durham, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy launched his “We Are Made to Connect” tour of college campuses at Duke “to share inspiration and resources aimed at helping students and others connect with each other.”

Also in Durham, the Office of Government Relations hosted its first State and District Congressional Staff Day since 2019. The traditional biennial gathering helps showcase Duke University and Duke Health experts and programs impacting North Carolinians to staff serving our state’s congressional delegation. With a community of over 45,000 employees, Duke is the largest homegrown private employer and the second largest private employer overall in the state.

Duke’s Veterans Transition Resource Lab: From Inception to the Future

A mission some ten years in the making, the Veterans Transition Resource Lab has grown from an engaged initiative to a full-blown, funded research lab aimed at improving employment outcomes for military veterans and their families.

The Veteran Transitions Research Lab (VTRL) conducts research through the Fuqua School of Business that helps to encourage other leaders in this field of research to launch investigations of this topic using their unique expertise. on enhancing veterans’ transition to the workforce. The VTRL’s work has received national attention and sponsorship from Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, CVS Health, the Call of Duty Endowment, USAA and several U.S. universities. 

Aaron C. Kay, the J. Rex Fuqua Professor of International Management at the Duke Fuqua School of Business, Sean Kelley, Duke Fuqua School of Business Executive in Residence and David Sherman, professor of social psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), co-lead the VRTL’s research efforts,

In honor of Veterans Day and the important work the VTRL does for veterans, we highlighted the journey of VTRL from its inception into looking toward its future.

We are building a completely new field of academically rigorous research focused on areas of persistent challenge in military transition: underemployment, challenges with belongingness, and issues related to stereotyping of veterans and bias faced in employment.  With over 150,000 veterans transitioning each year, we have an opportunity to improve many lives through applied research generated by the VTRL and our partners. 

Sean Kelley

Kelley said he and Kay originally met in 2013 and began an exploration of this specific research with a gift of $250,000 from Microsoft, where Kelley worked at the time.  Kay and his primary collaborator, Dr. David Sherman, worked on a number of research efforts, after which Kelley joined as an Executive in Residence in 2020. This formed the Veteran Transitions Research Project, the earliest iteration of the VTRL.

Kelley said he and his team sought to fill what they saw as a gap in academic research centered on military veterans and their families. He said through corporate sponsorships and non-government organizations, they have raised $750,000 to put towards first party research on topics relevant to how veterans experience and adjust to the civilian workforce and the educational settings that facilitate this transition compared to the military, the way society and managers (that control hiring and promotion) view veterans, and, importantly, the interaction of these.

In addition to research, that funding has also supplemented VTRL in hosting two annual summits.

When we hosted the first conference in 2022, we were hopeful but had no idea how the conversations would transpire with such a diverse collection of leaders from academics with no background in veteran research to retired generals to veteran non-profit CEOs and government agency leads, to corporate military affairs leaders.  We were blown away with the chemistry, thoughtful dialogue, energy, curiosity and commitment to the ideas we had proposed and the path we were embarking upon. 

Sean Kelley

Kelley said at VTRL’s most recent summit they also held their first pitch competition. Seven proposals were awarded a total of $90,000. The first place pitch, Assisting Veterans’ Transition to the Civilian Workforce by Cultivating Opportunities: A Growth-Mindset-of-Opportunity Intervention by Paul A. O’Keefe, University of Exeter Business School, received a total of $20,000.

Kelley said a goal is to implement wise interventions to test program changes with veteran-serving organizations, and in doing so, positively impact outcomes for veteran employment, belongingness and well-being. He said while they are currently working on the academic engagement side of their research, the hope is to eventually engage more on the corporate side through sponsored research projects and program change implementations as well.  

VTRL also plans to publish a new video each time it releases research:

“We are building a completely new field of academically rigorous research focused on areas of persistent challenge in military transition: underemployment, challenges with belongingness, and issues related to stereotyping of veterans and bias faced in employment.  With over 150,000 veterans transitioning each year, we have an opportunity to improve many lives through applied research generated by the VTRL and our partners.”

Sean Kelley

Protecting Consumers: CFPB’s Legal Battle and Implications

Duke in DC’s latest Congressional Briefing featured discussion about the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) following its recent United States Supreme Court hearing. The CFPB is an independent agency created after the 2008 financial crisis with the role of writing and enforcing rules for financial institutions, examining both bank and non-bank financial institutions, monitoring and reporting on markets, and collecting and tracking consumer complaints. Its most recent challenge in front of the Supreme Court is questioning whether the CFPB’s funding structure, which funnels through the Federal Reserve rather than Congress, is constitutional.

Our panel of Duke experts, including the Sanford School of Policy’s Mallory SoRelle, PhD, and Vicki Bogan, PhD, the Fuqua School of Business’ Manuel Adelino, PhD, and moderated by Duke Law’s Stuart Benjamin, J.D., discussed the implications of these challenges for consumers, particularly those with lower incomes, including their real estate and household finances, as well as the legal implications for administrative law and regulatory agencies.

Recommendations to policymakers as conversations continue about the CFPB:

Mallory SoRelle

“It’s not enough to think about the substance of of regulations, but to think about the implementation, and how visible how visible is an organization like the CFPB is role in implementing these things to the public, because the only way that the public is able to express in a systematic way problems that they have with these products is through an organization like the CFPB. Right? And they can’t do that if they don’t know that the CFPB is responsible. So I would really encourage policymakers and sort of regulators to focus on the ways that we make those points of access.”

Vicki Bogan

“FinTech, you know, the landscape for how consumers engage with financial products is also changing. Products are more complex, but how they access them has been changing as well. And I think that the CFPB has been uniquely positioned to address how that landscape is changing. And it’s not just focused on certain kinds of banks. It’s not just focused on certain financial institutions. And it can look more broadly at how households are engaging through FinTech and what additional protections may be needed in that context as well. And so the fact that, again, we’ll go back to a point that we’ve all made, that there is a kind of central body that’s responsible for looking at the big picture, and developing specific expertise in consumer finance regulation, I think is an important key for people to recognize.”

Manuel Adelino

“Think about where is the what are the priorities in terms of financial products, and then I have to return to this point about priorities in terms of groups that are being potentially harmed. And so here, you know, and this depends now on how you think about your constituency. But indeed, thinking about which demographic groups out there are being harmed by the absence of rule-making and by the absence of protection?”

The CFPB as a legal matter.

Stuart Benjamin

“My own take on this case, is that as a legal matter, it’s not terribly significant. Because it would be so easy for Congress to have annual appropriations. There’s no if tomorrow. I think it’s unlikely the Court were to say that none of these funding mechanisms, you know, for the Fed, for the FDIC for the CFPB was constitutional, Congress can pass legislation responding.”

The CFPB as a political matter.

Mallory SoRelle

“It would present a real challenge for the CFPB. Because what would likely happen if the court sides with the payday lending lobby, in this case, is they would probably say, ‘We’re going to essentially toss this back to Congress and say, you need to come up with another funding mechanism, we will give you some amount of time, maybe a year to do that, we’re not going to go back and sort of get rid of all the regulations the CFPB has done, but you’re gonna have to fix this moving forward.’ The reason that is likely to be really problematic is because of how polarized Congress is right now.

How exactly does the CFPB benefit consumers?

Vicki Bogan

“If you look at some of the key actions that they’ve taken, since inception, they’ve been the CFPB has been very active in enforcement and supervision, which results in has resulted in billions of dollars in monetary compensation, principal reduction, canceled debts and other consumer relief. They have imposed billions in civil money penalties on companies and individuals that have violated laws. They have collected millions of consumer complaints that they pass on to firms on behalf of the consumers. And they have served as a key source of financial education with, you know, a huge database of financial education information, and also answering sort of hundreds of financial questions from people that are just trying to navigate the landscape.”

Manuel Adelino

“If I have to make three decisions over my lifetime, and you’re asking me to how do I choose the right interest rate for me at what loan to value? And what should I do if someone has offered me a hybrid mortgage? It’s unlikely that I will know and I won’t have a chance to learn because the next time I’ll make that decision is 10 or 15 years from now. So the fact that they are very infrequent makes them especially hard to learn about. And the last point I want to make is these decisions matter… making the right choice can be very productive for the household making a wrong choice is very costly. So when you combine these three things, that your decisions are complex, they are infrequent, so they’re hard to learn about. And they really matter. You need to think about whether how do how do you then put this under one agency?”

What makes the CFPB unique?

Mallory SoRelle

“It was the first financial regulator whose primary mission was consumer protection. And it’s centralized a lot of that regulatory authority into one agency. So what ends up happening is not only are the folks in the CFPB, actually, they have expertise in protecting financial institutions. And that’s what they’re supposed to be doing. But it also meant it lowered the cost for public interest groups and sort of ordinary consumers to engage in regulatory politics, because now instead of having to do that, across multiple institutions, there was one very visible institution that you could go to.”

Why so many challenges to the CFPB?

Vicki Bogan

“You might ask yourself, why is there such opposition to the CFPB, kind of in concept, and I think there’s often been kind of confusion on the clientele of the CFPB. Right? the CFPB was designed to serve the public, not the banks, per se. And so Unsurprisingly, the banks and financial institutions often push back on some of the initiatives of the CFPB. You know, the banks, you know, don’t like additional regulation, don’t necessarily don’t welcome additional regulation. And it’s interfere with their ability to satisfy their mission of maximizing shareholder value, and especially when they’re, you know, regulated by an outside firm. So you see, quite a bit of opposition from financial institutions.”

Communication is key.

Mallory SoRelle

The CFPB more recently has started to add language, for example, on the Schumer box of credit card applications. A simple line that just says the CFPB is a regulatory agency that deals with this. If you need help, you can contact us. So I have some work that shows that even something as simple as that making visible, the presence of this agency makes consumers more likely to say they would proactively seek out that agency if they needed information if they needed to file a complaint, right. So something as simple as just being visible in the type of material that’s disclosed to consumers around financial products, makes it easier for them to get information.

Vicki Bogan

“I think, because it’s still new, one of the challenges is I don’t think everybody’s clear on sort of what the CFPB role is, what exactly they do, how they make decisions. And so I think, to the extent that the CFPB seemed as if they were spending a lot of time trying to get their message out about, you know, their goals in how the, you know, their mission, and how they want to make a difference. I mean, I think that at my time there and granted, I would work primarily with the Office of Research, there is quite a bit of energy enthusiasm for kind of communication and reaching out and interacting as much as possible.”

Manuel Adelino

“I think part of this, it certainly is about providing information to consumers. But a lot of it is about designing the products and designing the way they are offered to consumers in a way that allows them to make proper decisions it is about So how do I design, for example, a modification program that allows households to send back the documents, sign them and understand them? How do I design a credit card contract. So you should not have in mind necessarily, the household actively looking for information, but rather a household reacting to things that are offered to them and being able to then make adequate financial decisions.”

Mallory SoRelle, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy

Vicki Bogan, PhD, Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy

Manuel Adelino, PhD, Professor of Finance at the Fuqua School of Business

Stuart Benjamin, JD, William Van Alstyne Professor of Law and co-director of the Center for Innovation Policy at Duke Law School

State and District Congressional Staff Day 2023

North Carolina congressional staffers from across the state were welcomed to campus recently for Duke’s State and District Congressional Staff Day.

Hosted for the first time since 2019, the traditional biennial gathering helps showcase Duke University and Duke Health experts and programs impacting North Carolinians to staff serving our state’s congressional delegation. With a community of over 45,000 employees, Duke is the largest homegrown private employer, and second largest private employer overall in the state.

Vice President of Government Relations Chris Simmons and Executive Vice President and COO for Duke’s Health System, Dr. Tom Owens, provided an overview of how Duke University and Duke Health can work with congressional leaders to serve as resources as they work for the citizens of North Carolina.

Staffers asked thoughtful questions about Duke’s new tuition aid initiative for North and South Carolina students, as well as the current state of other timely higher education issues.

Following the overview kickoff, staffers spent time with several researchers from across campus, with a particular focus on the Climate Commitment and the value of federal research funding.

As this summer was one of the warmest on record, staff engaged in a timely discussion on the impact and mitigation of extreme heat and heat-related illness across North Carolina.

This conversation was navigated by Ashley Ward of Duke’s new Heat Policy Innovation Hub and Jason Zivica, assistant vice president for Duke Health System’s Hospital Operations. Ward’s previous work with NOAA’s Carolinas Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) team connected rural and urban communities and policy-decision makers with relevant climate and health data, particularly related to vulnerabilities and impacts. Zivica helped play a role in developing Duke’s Emergency Operations Plan, which has served as a blueprint model nationwide.

They discussed what has driven heat to become so impactful over the last 30 years and the misconceptions surrounding the dangers of heat.

“Everyone is vulnerable to heat, this is a really hard message to get across to a region that is used to heat.”

Ashley ward

Additionally, Ward and Zivica highlighted what Duke and Duke Health have done to become leaders in the field surrounding future mitigation of heat’s impacts both on health and on the environment.

“Our role is education, so our role is getting out to our patients ahead of time no matter what the disaster is, but we be a part of that [education] and say ‘Hey it’s going to be hot here’s what you need to know about your condition and what you need to do to take care of yourself and here’s where you can seek help.’ I think it’s partnering with our local emergency managers, Durham County has an emergency management office that we partner with all the time and they are great.’”

Jason Zivica

Following this panel, attendees traveled to Duke’s Puppy Kindergarten, where staffers learned about the study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, to assess the impact of different rearing strategies on the behavior and cognitive development of assistance dogs. The goal is to help increase the pipeline of service dogs in the country.

The program is a key example of why congressional support for organizations like the NIH is crucial for important research and innovation.

After lunchtime conversations with President Vincent Price and Student Government President Isaiah Hamilton, attendees ventured over to Duke Health for the next panel on addressing the connection between environment and health disparities.

The conversation featured Professor Devon Noonan, PhD,  Dorothy L. Powell Term Chair of Nursing. Noonan’s research is focused on using community-engaged approaches to develop innovative health behavior change interventions, including digital interventions, with the goal of reducing risk for chronic diseases including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Joining Noonan was Professor Norbert Wilson, PhD, director of the World Food Policy Center and faculty appointed to both the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Duke Divinity School. Wilson’s research touches on several food issues, such as access, choice, and food waste.

Duke’s Nursing School and Divinity School have one of the widest statewide reaches in terms of programming and alumni. As more extreme weather events happen, Noonan said the impacts she sees on North Carolina citizens, specifically rural communities, include higher rates of chronic illness such as stroke and hypertension.

“We know all of those are related really to structural causes so unjust distribution of resources in communities around food, healthcare, education, jobs, ability to be mobile in the community and so we see really high social needs: food security, transportation security, housing instability. So when I think of these climate events, that is the crux of the issue.

Devon Noonan

Wilson said in his field of work food security is important because it relates closely to the food and agriculture system. If that system is under stress, like it has been in recent years with inflation, when food prices rise people struggle with their food security.

Noonan and Wilson also highlighted how Duke is playing a role in mitigating these issues to hopefully find a solution in the future.

“The Divinity School is I think in an innovative place right now. We’re working with the Nicholas School of the Environment and a group that hosts a series of workshops—we’ve been hosting them at the Marine Lab—where we’re training clergy and lay leaders to address climate issues within their congregations. We’ve had a pretty strong participation the last two years and we’re looking forward to do that again. And I think this is an important thing where we realize there are interesting tensions when we talk about climate, where especially when we talk about our students, they’re really deeply concerned about the climate.”

Norbert Wilson

The day wrapped up with a discussion and tour of some of Duke Health’s sustainability practices featuring Monte Brown, MD, vice president of administration and secretary, Duke University Health System; associate dean of veterans affairs, Duke University School of Medicine.

2023 State and District Congressional Staff Day was overall a marked success. We are grateful for the participation of our Duke and Duke Health faculty and staff, who shared their knowledge and expertise about the impact the Duke community is having on important topics in our state. Additionally, we are grateful our state and district staff day for their comments, participation and partnerships. We look forward to our next State and District Congressional Staff Day.

October 2023 Government Shutdown Information

UPDATE October 2nd 9:30 a.m.

In an unexpected turn on Saturday, the federal government avoided a shutdown. Speaker Kevin McCarthy ignored threats from his far-right members and offered a relatively straightforward continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open for the start of the 2024 fiscal year, which began October 1.

The CR will keep the government open for another 45 days at current funding levels. The bill also included $16 billion for disaster relief.

After passing the House in the afternoon, the Senate passed the legislation in the evening. Both chambers passed the CR with broad, bipartisan support.


The underlying disagreements over funding levels have not been resolved. Instead, Congress has undertaken a maneuver to buy themselves more time. While both chambers will still have work to do to pass and negotiate a compromise for the 12 appropriations bills, there are several fundamental, non-appropriations items on their agenda to deal with in the next 45 days. 

  • The National Flood Insurance Program and the Federal Aviation Administration had their authorizations temporarily extended to later this year;
  • Congress is still debating sending more aid to Ukraine.

UPDATE September 28th 10:30 a.m.

To: Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, Deans, Directors, Department Heads, and Managers

From: Government Relations Vice President Chris Simmons

The Duke Office of Government Relations (OGR) is closely monitoring the budget negotiations in Washington to determine the implications of a possible federal government shutdown on Duke and its activities. If such a shutdown takes place, it will begin at midnight on October 1, 2023.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) instructs all federal agencies and congressional offices to prepare and periodically update contingency plans for internal use. The existing “OMB Agency Contingency Plans,” required by law to be updated every two years, are available at:
The OGR is working in close coordination with several key offices, including the Office for Research and Innovation and University Finance, to ensure updates are provided to the Duke community and contingencies are in place should a shutdown occur. We will continue to watch for further developments and communications from the federal agencies, but it is possible that official guidance will not become available until after the shutdown takes place. As information is received, we will share it through Duke Today, the Office of Government Relations blog and myRESEARCHpath
In the meantime, if you have meetings or events planned with federal officials either in Washington, D.C. or on campus during the next few weeks, it is recommended that alternative plans be considered before the close of business on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.
Following are two publications from OMB and the American Council on Education (ACE) regarding federal government shutdowns that might provide useful background.

Section 124 – Agency Operations in the Absence of Appropriations (OMB)

Government Shutdowns and Higher Education (ACE) 

Feel free to be in contact with our office should you have questions.

UPDATE: September 28th, 9:00 a.m.

As an impending federal government shutdown looms, Duke’s Office of Government Relations (OGR) is closely tracking legislative activity that will hopefully resolve the issue.

A government shutdown raises many questions and issues about the impact on how we continue to interact and work with the federal government on a variety of issues. Below are some resources that will be helpful if a shutdown occurs:

The White House’s List of Agency Contingency Plans:

From the American Council on Education:

From Duke University on Research Projects:

From the American Immigration Lawyers Association:

Please reconsider meetings scheduled with federal officials in the coming days and weeks as offices and individuals may have differing policies for engagement.

OGR will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates to the Duke community as further information becomes available.

Be sure to check back on this page as more communications and agency guidelines are made available

Duke Participates In Multi-Institute National Science Foundation Artificial Intelligence Showcase

With Congress focusing more time and attention on artificial intelligence (AI), the National Science Foundation (NSF) celebrated its higher education and industry partners’ AI endeavors and achievements in a recent research showcase on Capitol Hill. Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering’s Athena program was among the 25 institutes demonstrating their work through hands-on exhibits for NSF and congressional staff.

The event included remarks from NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, as well as Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). Panchanathan lauded the efforts of what he said was a decades-long investment into the NSF for the development of artificial intelligence research and production.

Senators Martin Heinrich and Mike Rounds represented the Senate’s Artificial Intelligence Caucus. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said that he feels an obligation to get involved to start crafting a comprehensive AI policy. Heinrich said they also recently had the Senate’s first AI forum.

“This gives me hope,” Heinrich said. “This is where the rubber meets the road in a way that is accessible to all of our constituents, not just a few geographies. And that I think is really, really important.”

Professors Yiran Chen and Jeffrey Krolik represented Duke’s Athena Institute, highlighting the institute’s efforts in edge computing. Edge computing solves the problem of latency in cloud-based services, enabling mobile devices to process data closer to the source for near real-time results and increased security. For example, first responders can use edge technology to annotate maps of their environment in challenging situations to make them safer. NSF Director Panchanathan  participated in a demonstration of such technology, using a VR headset to simulate brain surgery.

The following day, Duke participated in a separate Advocacy Day hosted by the Coalition for the National Science Foundation (CNSF). CNSF is a coalition of over 140 organizations, universities, and industries, including Duke, united in support of increasing funding to NSF. In addition to discussions with staff from the North Carolina congressional delegation, Athena leadership joined other AI Institutes to discuss their work and the importance of sustained federal support for the AI Institutes with staff from the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Congressional Staffers, State Innovation and Defense Partners Visit Duke Quantum Center

Duke Government Relations and Duke State Relations hosted state and federal partners on August 30th for “Quantum Day” at the Duke Quantum Center (DQC) in the historic Chesterfield Building in Downtown Durham. Attendees included congressional staff members from the offices of Sen. Thom Tillis, Sen. Ted Budd, Rep. Valerie Foushee and Rep. Deborah Ross. Representatives from the NC Office of Science, Technology and Innovation, the NC Defense Technology Transfer Office, and the National Security Innovation Network were also in attendance.

Leaders from DQC, including Chris Monroe, PhD, Gilhuly Family Presidential Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics, Director of DQC; Jungsang Kim, PhD, Schiciano Family Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Professor of Physics; and Ken Brown, PhD, Michael Fitzpatrick Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Professor of Physics, Associate Professor of Chemistry welcomed the federal and state guests. DQC kicked off the program by giving an overview of quantum information science & technology (QIST) and applications of QIST – ranging from everyday activities to national and economic security. DQC leaders explained some of the basic principles of quantum computing, elaborating on how atoms, elements, ions, electrodes, and lasers work together to control a quantum system.

An integral part of the discussion was how the federal government supports quantum computing research at Duke. Collectively, members of the DQC have brought in over $170 million in funding and performed over $100 million in government contracts since 2007. Support from the federal government positions DQC and North Carolina to be at the forefront of innovation and groundbreaking research. DQC also plays a role in educating the future quantum computing workforce. Through collaboration with government agencies, private industries, and other universities, DQC’s expertise and infrastructure allows North Carolina to be a major player and contributor in the fast-emerging field of quantum computing.

Dan Vick, director of Duke University‘s Office of Export Controls, also provided attendees with an overview of how Duke balances its international collaborations with national security concerns. Duke was one of the first universities to create an office focused on export controls and continues to evolve research security compliance efforts based on federal policies and procedures in place.

The day ended with a tour of the labs at Duke Quantum Center. Participants were able to view quantum computer stacks and simulators while learning more about the infrastructure and technology needed to support quantum components.

Experts Share Insights on Farm Bill Reauthorization and Nutrition Assistance Programs

The Farm Bill, which is up for reauthorization this year, includes nutrition assistance programs, rural development, agricultural research and many other initiatives.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) comprised roughly 80% of the 2018 Farm Bill’s funding allocation. This year, this critical legislation is up for reauthorization in Congress and several experts from Duke University, along with a co-author from Syracuse University, shared insights from their research in the field and weighed in on potential changes to these programs to reduce the food insecurity and food resource gap between demographic groups. Watch the full conversation here and read the panelists’ excerpts below:

The 2023 Farm Bill Reauthorization Landscape and Recommendations to Policymakers

Norbert Wilson

“As we’re thinking about the current moment, we’re in and thinking about this, the current conversations around the debt ceiling, and then what’s going to roll into the Farm Bill in the coming months, this issue of eligibility is going to be an important conversation about who actually gets to participate, what are the rules that may shape this?”

Alfonso Flores-Lagunes

“By and large, SNAP is a public investment that generates large returns, particularly in the medium and long term… the disincentives to work generated by the program are, in general, at most, very small and lightly nonexistent… policymakers should try for SNAP to reach as many eligible households as possible given the high returns that the program has.”

Carolyn Barnes

“Given the long-run positive effects of SNAP on kids and, ultimately, adults, we should think about ways of simplifying the application and recertification process or in other words, we should reduce administrative burden in accessing nutrition assistance programs.”

Lessons learned from the pandemic

Carolyn Barnes

“The pandemic offered an opportunity to see what happens when we essentially eliminate the barriers to accessing these programs. SNAP was an essential buffer to economic hardship. We know that it was crucial for folks that were weathering potential food insecurity. But for the folks that couldn’t, couldn’t get access or for the more complicated, the complicated question of whether or not these burden-reducing strategies really had the impact they could have had.”

On inflation’s impact to SNAP and other nutritional assistance programs

Alfonso Flores-Lagunes

“We also need to take into consideration the extraordinary circumstances in terms of the world economy with the conflict in Ukraine, and so on, that limited the availability of grains and other products throughout the world… In general, I wouldn’t be overly concerned about inflationary pressures that having these additional snap resources for nourishing is going to create in the larger economy through inflation.”

Policy changes and administrative burden in the Farm Bill

Carolyn Barnes

“It expands the burden to a population that did not experience the burden before. There’s a whole new set of learning costs, learning what’s required of me (the recipient) now, that I that I’m no longer eligible in the way that I was prior to this change… and then the psychological cost of having to meet with the snap worker potentially, in whatever stigma or stress or complexity that might present itself that I otherwise would have forgone in the previous sort of iteration of the federal policy.”

“From the caseworker’s perspective, it’s again learning new policy and adapting to the new policy.”

How to support nonprofit workers who process SNAP applications and help people enroll in the program?

Carolyn Barnes

“I think outreach is critical and reducing some of those costs in advance of submitting the application would both increase the likelihood that someone has a successful claim for SNAP, and would also reduce the burden of the worker that’s trying to help someone enroll… A way to kind of shift gears and engage in sort of a grassroots communication strategy about what’s necessary to have a successful snap application? I think that could be a way to, to support workers.”

Norbert Wilson

“I’ve been in conversation with a person who’s involved in a local nonprofit, and this person has raised the challenge of navigating the rules and being able to help applicants through the process and and there was and because of the differences by state, there’s some variation that can occur, that it’s critical for nonprofits who are trying to help individuals to have a really detailed understanding of what the rules are to help people navigate that.”

Any parts of the application process or anything else within individuals’ interaction with the SNAP benefit that would be either most complicated or burdensome that might be able to benefit from policy changes?

Carolyn Barnes

“For both workers and participants, it’s documenting employment. What’s most burdensome for participants actually ends up being most burdensome for workers who are implementing the program and that’s gathering and confirming information… The second thing would be like household composition, which can be which can be tricky for low-income families.”

Final thoughts for Congress on reauthorization

Norbert Wilson

“An adjustment of the Thrifty Food Plan, which sets the maximum benefit level that then influences the benefit levels that everyone receives, is a critical factor in helping make sure the SNAP program really meets the food needs of families. And I would say the other part is anything that we can do that allows people to understand their ability to access the program and their ability to get the benefits.”

Carolyn Barnes

“Were at an all-time low in terms of poverty, but in general, relative to other developed countries, our safety net isn’t where it should be. And I think we could be far more generous.”

Carolyn Barnes is an assistant professor in the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy

Norbert Wilson is a professor of food, economics, and community and serves as director of the Duke University Sanford World Food Policy Center

Alfonso Flores-Lagunes is a professor of economics at the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Duke Experts Share Climate Considerations on the Farm Bill

Last reauthorized in 2018, the Farm Bill remains one of the most significant and comprehensive pieces of legislation affecting American agriculture and rural communities. As Congress prepares to reauthorize the critical legislation again this year, three Duke experts shared insights from their research on how the bill can be strengthened to address pressing agriculture issues, exacerbated by the climate crisis.

Below are the excerpts from the conversation, and you can watch the full briefing here.

The Farm Bill and U.S. Agriculture’s Far-Reaching Impact on Climate

Michelle Nowlin

“In the 2023 Farm Bill, Congress has the potential to counteract the harm caused by certain agricultural practices and ensure that agriculture is part of the climate solution moving forward, and it can also make farms more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

“It’s really impossible for us to address climate change, or more generally environmental quality in the US without addressing agricultural production, because as much as 50% of the land in the lower 48 states is presently in agricultural production.”

“This is a vicious cycle that contemporary agricultural practices contribute to greenhouse gas emissions because agriculture is uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change through drought, catastrophic storms, flooding, increased heat and humidity in many regions, and changing and unpredictable weather patterns that affect planting and harvesting.”

Lee Miller

“Agriculture is one of the only, perhaps the only, major emitting sectors that have at least the theoretical potential to be a net sink of greenhouse gas emissions… these are also systems that are really well suited to helping farmers adapt to climate change, to make to making their farms more resilient in the face of the droughts and floods and disease and heat stress.”

Where the U.S. is Falling Short on Climate-Smart Agriculture R&D Research Compared to Global Leaders

Lucia Strader

“Investment in research is one of the best possible returns on investment that the federal government can make… This funding has really remained flat in the US, and the purchasing power has declined over the past couple of decades.”

“As of today, most of the high-impact papers looking at plant biology and agriculture are coming from labs based in China. And that’s reflective of the dramatic increase in funding that China and other countries around the world are investing in agricultural research as the U.S. is, sadly started to fall behind… it’s important for us to continue this R&D investment through the Farm Bill.”

Investing in Research, Technology and People Through Budget & Appropriations

Lee Miller

“There’s pretty broad agreement that we need more, more investment and conservation, technical assistance… At the end of the day, those dollars [existing appropriations from the Inflation Reduction Act and Farm Bill] have to be deployed in a responsible way and deployed through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). And if the folks aren’t on the ground to help farmers figure out how to put those practices onto the land, then those dollars are not going to be well spent, or they’re not going to be spent at all.”

Lucia Strader

“I’ve seen over the past six months that the extension services from each U.S. institution have started to work more closely together to try to understand how they can innovate.”

Enhancing Agricultural Diversification Through Small and Medium-Size Farms

Lee Miller

“This is a country that mostly, most of our food and fiber is produced on very large monocultures. And we have a pretty good sense at this point that that’s, that’s just not the future that we should all be striving for… we can do climate mitigation and build resilience into our agricultural sector by increasing the opportunities for diversified farms to thrive… One proposal that I’ve certainly heard kind of thrown around is creating an Office of Small Farms within the USDA.”

Supporting Equity for Underserved Communities Through the Farm Bill

Michelle Nowlin

“We need to be directing more support to historically underserved communities through our farm belt programs. USDA and Congress like to refer to them as historically underserved, but I think it’s important to remember that they were historically discriminated against intentionally under these different programs that have resulted in the decimation of rural economies and land loss.”

The Importance of Including Outreach and Farmer-to-Farmer Education in Reauthorization

Michelle Nowlin

“Farmer-to-Farmer education has proven absolutely essential in moving some of the more conservation or climate-sensitive practices out of the research institutions and into the field… But I don’t believe that Farm Bill programs currently fund that type of outreach and education.”

Lee Miller

“In addition to the laboratory research that Dr. Strader is doing, we need farmers trying things out on the field level and at scale. To get them to take a risk like that – is a perfect opportunity for us to come in with public dollars and support that research directly.”

Limitations of Rented Farmland in Implementing Climate-Smart Solutions in Agriculture

Lucia Strader

“One limitation that I see is that so much of our farmlands, particularly for large-scale operations, is done on rented land… There’s not a lot of motivation [for long-term planning] for someone who’s just renting the land to do that.”

Michelle Nowlin

“If there’s a way for the Farm Bill to force longer contracts or to incentivize longer contracts… it can certainly incentivize long-term planning.”

Crop Insurance in the Farm Bill as an Incentive for Climate-Smart Farming

Lee Miller

“Other than the SNAP program, the nutrition program, crop insurance is the major funding that we provide through the Farm Bill.”

“There’s a real chance to put a couple have to use that program to do kind of good climate work. There are all kinds of proposals out there for how one might do that… we the public are willing to subsidize [farmer] insurance costs and to help mitigate some of the risks of the inherent risks of farming. And in return, what we’re asking for are some very baseline practices that we believe will, will both mitigate and help you adapt to climate change.”

Lucia Strader is an associate professor in biology at Duke University 

Lee Miller is a lecturing fellow at Duke University School of Law

Michelle Nowlin is a clinical professor of law and co-director of the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Duke University School of Law 

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