Jason Bailey: American households and jobs plans would supply alternative for all Kentucky households

In his April 28 address to a joint congressional session, President Biden announced details of his administration’s American family plan. Here in Kentucky, this plan, along with the US employment plan released in March, would fuel a stronger recovery and make important long-term contributions to a fairer and more dynamic economy.

COVID-19 and its economic impact have exposed longstanding problems that have held Kentuckians back for decades. Too many families in rural and urban communities cannot afford housing, childcare, health care, adequate nutrition or other basic needs. Kentuckians face great difficulties when they lose their jobs or fall ill, while many work in jobs that do not pay a living wage.

Jason Bailey

Because of systemic racism, black, brown, and immigrant Kentuckians face unequal opportunities and outcomes in education, employment, health, and housing – differences that have become apparent in the pandemic. And our economy as a whole is lagging because we haven’t made the public investments that we know will pay off, such as in early childhood education, upgrading our physical and digital infrastructure, and tackling the threat of climate change.

The recovery proposals in the American Jobs & Families Plans begin to address these challenges and move us towards an economy where all Kentuckians can thrive.

The plans envisage investing in high quality, affordable childcare through expanding childcare allowances, building childcare facilities, and permanently increasing tax credits for those in need of care. They strengthen public education by offering all 3 and 4 year olds a preschool and two year tuition-free community college through government funding, and they make higher education more affordable by increasing Pell grants and tuition fees at higher education institutions lower people with color.

The new plans will help reduce child poverty through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) by extending the child tax credit expansion through 2025 and making the credit permanent for the poorest children, and they will reduce childhood hunger, by making the ARP’s summer nutrition programs permanent.

The Recovery Agenda will create a breakthrough paid family and medical leave program to help workers fulfill their caring responsibilities. New investments in home and community care will enable more people with disabilities and the elderly to live well at home, while at the same time creating new jobs and improving the quality of work for home care workers. The plans will improve the affordability of health care by extending the ARP’s increase in health insurance premium tax credits.

In the meantime, we will all benefit from the plans’ critical investments in the country’s ailing infrastructure.

We will see much-needed, long-delayed improvements in roads, bridges, public transport, housing, drinking water and broadband, projects that will create jobs in construction and lay the foundation for greater prosperity.

The job and family plans will also help fight climate change by helping well-paying union jobs modernize the energy network, improve the energy efficiency of buildings, undertake land restoration, generate renewable energy and create clean jobs in home manufacturing be created.

Congress should respond swiftly to these proposals and build on them by, for example, making the temporary widening of child tax credits permanent, increasing support for low-income housing, taking additional steps to make health care affordable, and strengthening the country’s unemployment insurance system. Our wealthy nation can afford to make all of these critical investments – and we cannot afford not to.

For decades, people at the helm and corporations have made oversized profits, taking advantage of special tax breaks and loopholes to avoid investing in infrastructure, healthy families, and thriving communities. As suggested in these plans, it makes sense to urge the richest among us and corporations to pay a fairer share of federal taxes on the investments that benefit us all.

At the end of the tunnel there is light with the pandemic. The ARP and other proposals for help have helped Kentuckians through a very difficult time. However, we cannot simply go back to the pre-pandemic economy, with its growing inequality and widespread insecurity. Kentuckians need Congress to trade the bold investments envisaged in these recovery proposals and create an economy that truly works for everyone.

Jason Bailey is the executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

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