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6 family provisions in the Biden infrastructure proposal

The American Jobs Act includes 6 items that take aim at family challenges

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Vice President Kamala Harris, left, listens as President Joe Biden speaks during an event on the American Jobs Plan in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Washington.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

The American Jobs Plan proposed by President Joe Biden is being billed as an infrastructure measure because of the resources put into tasks like fixing roads and transportation systems. But the White House has taken the position that infrastructure also includes housing, internet access and other foundational supports for people like better wages, among others.

So parents and children are part of this bill, too — a formula that’s been incorporated into earlier and future initiatives of the current administration.

The already-passed American Rescue Plan raised the child tax credit temporarily from $2,000 to $3,000 for children and will be paid monthly starting this summer, instead of at tax filing time. It also put $15 billion into child care expansion and increased food stamp program benefits by 15%.

A third proposal, billed The American Families Plan, is expected to be unveiled prior to Biden’s address to Congress on April 28. According to The Washington Post, “While final numbers had not been determined, the largest efforts are expected to center on roughly $225 billion for child-care funding; $225 billion for paid family and medical leave; $200 billion for universal prekindergarten instruction; hundreds of billions in education funding, including tuition-free community colleges across the country; and other sums for nutritional assistance, the people familiar with the matter said.”

It’s too early to say if the provisions in Biden’s infrastructure proposal that look directly at improving life for families will improve the chance that the approximately $2.65 trillion plan will win congressional support. Differences have broken out along partisan lines, with Republicans in the Senate unveiling a $568 billion counterproposal Thursday dedicated primarily to upgrading traditional infrastructure of roads and bridges. Some experts believe different pieces will be broken out and tackled separately as events unfold.

There are six provisions that especially target family needs within the Biden infrastructure proposal:

  • High-speed internet

The administration said the goal is to “build high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100% coverage,” including “future-proof” coverage in areas that have struggled to get or afford broadband. COVID-19 made some of those challenges especially clear as many schools nationwide took education online, revealing a deep chasm in who had access and who did not.

A White House infrastructure plan fact sheet said that the country “must ensure that every American who wants to can afford high-quality and reliable broadband internet,” including perhaps short-term subsidies for low-income families, but he vowed to work to reduce the cost for all Americans, since Americans pay “much more than people in many other countries.”

  • Affordable housing

The plan calls for putting $213 billion into building, preserving and retrofitting more than 2 million homes and commercial buildings to be used to reduce the affordable housing crisis.

Of that, 1 million more rentals nationwide would be made available for creation, preservation and upgrades, made possible by using targeted tax credits, formula funding, grants and project-based rent assistance. More than 500,000 homes would be built or renovated for low-income and middle-income buyers. Another 500,000 homes would be available if Congress enacts “an innovative new competitive grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate such needless barriers to producing affordable housing.” Those barriers include exclusionary zoning and some land use policies.

The plan also calls for repairing public housing that’s been neglected, among other efforts.

  • Support for caregivers

As Boston College’s Heather Cox Richardson points out in her April 13 Letters from an American for Substack, the coronavirus hit women — particularly women of color — especially hard as many of them “left the workforce to care for children when child care centers closed.” She said they lost 5.4 million jobs, which is nearly a million more than men lost.

The bill proposes investing $400 billion in the caregiving economy, including making care more available and also supports for those who work in caregiving.

The president wants to upgrade child care facilities and build more infant and toddler care into high-need areas so that it will be easier for parents to work if they want jobs.

On the caregiver front, the infrastructure bill calls for creating jobs and raising wages and benefits for essential home care workers specifically, separate from other wage increase efforts. That would expand access to care and raise the wages of workers who provide that care. “He is calling on Congress to put $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities.”

  • Wage increase for low-wage earners

“Wages” comes up repeatedly in the bill and in the fact sheet. The proposal includes creating job opportunities in low-income communities, investing in workforce training as well as urging Congress to make sure new jobs in the fields of clean energy, manufacturing and infrastructure are available to women and people of color.

A White House outline of the proposal said the president is asking Congress to “specifically target funding to workers facing some of the greatest challenges, with investments to include $5 billion over eight years to boost evidence-based community violence prevention programs. Other targeted efforts include job training for people who have been incarcerated, as well as funding for public safety, among other things. Workforce development is a priority.

  • Restocking the Strategic National Stockpile

The stockpile is the nation’s repository (spread out in strategic locations) of antibiotics, vaccines, antitoxins and other critical medical supplies. The government’s public health emergency website says its purpose is to supplement the supplies that local and state health entities have on hand in case of a public health emergency. That includes medical equipment, such as the ventilators that have been in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Restocking the Strategic National Stockpile is deemed important to preserve the health and well-being of the country should another pandemic occur.

  • Clean drinking water

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes the point that no level of lead in water is safe for children. Lead exposure can impact development, creating learning, behavior and hearing problems for kids. It can also lead to long-term kidney and brain damage. The infrastructure plan would eliminate all lead pipes and service lines that carry drinking water within a community, using a revolving fund and grants to states.