By Congressman Kweisi Mfume
Last week President Joe Biden unveiled the “American Jobs Plan,” a $2.3 trillion infrastructure investment plan to revitalize America over eight years. The Jobs Plan proposes crucial investments in long-neglected parts of our economy. It is designed to give people the tools and resources needed to lift themselves up, while also making the United States a world leader in areas where we have been falling behind. The Jobs Plan was written to meet specific needs of this era and will directly benefit our 7th Congressional District of Maryland.
For example, the Jobs Plan invests $111 billion to rebuild our nation’s water infrastructure. It ambitiously seeks to replace all lead pipes and service lines across the country through a $45 billion program. This will reduce lead exposure in 400,000 schools and childcare facilities. It will also upgrade the country’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems, while tackling new contaminants and allotting $10 billion in funding to monitor and remediate drinking water.
The Plan also makes key investments in education by proposing $100 billion in new money for school construction, affecting schools like those in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County. This will include upgrades to ventilation systems and school kitchens. Making our schools healthier places, where nutrition is valued, will give children the ability to make the most of their time in conducive learning environments. Likewise, the Jobs Plan proposes spending $12 billion to address physical and technological infrastructure needs at community colleges, a vital component of the education system for so many families in the 7th Congressional District.
The Jobs Plan even addresses childcare, an often-overlooked need in our society. Lack of access to safe and affordable childcare makes it harder for parents to fully participate in any workforce. The Biden-Harris proposal provides $25 billion to upgrade childcare facilities and expands a tax credit that will incentivize employers to co-locate day care facilities in the workplace. These proposals should benefit all families and communities, including lower income communities and/or communities of color that are disproportionately affected by the American childcare crisis.
Many are calling this the “Build Back Better for American Workers Plan” because it recognizes that American workers are the driving force of our nation and directly invests $100 billion in workforce development initiatives. It allocates $48 billion to establish apprenticeships, career pathway programs for students, and job training programs at community colleges like Baltimore City Community College, Howard Community College, and the Community College of Baltimore County.
Additionally, it allocates $40 billion for worker retraining in emerging job markets such as clean energy, as well as helping to retrain people for new opportunities in fields like manufacturing and caregiving. It eliminates sub-minimum wage provisions and expands access to employment opportunities and fair wages for workers with disabilities. It also invests in job training for returning citizens and at-risk youth to provide employment alternatives to crime.
One more area where the Jobs Plan will deliver much-needed benefits is with home care for the elderly and the disabled. It directs $400 billion towards expanding access to quality, affordable home or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities. It will expand access to long-term care services under Medicaid, while also allowing expanded access to home and community-based services as an alternative to nursing homes for those who are better suited by those living arrangements. Lastly, it gives a long-overdue raise, stronger benefits, and the right to join a union and bargain collectively to the vital workers in this industry – the majority of whom are women of color who have been underpaid and undervalued for too long.
President Biden’s unveiling of the American Jobs Plan is just the beginning of the process. I look forward to taking part in the debates on this historic legislation and doing the difficult work ahead.
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