The American Jobs Plan: Investing in Workers and Our Future
Yesterday evening as President Joe Biden spook to the nation during his first joint address to Congress this evening, we heard about his American Jobs Plan, a historic plan to invest in America and take steps to jumpstart our economy while addressing the three intersecting crises we face—climate change, income inequality, and racial injustice.
This plan comes at a critical time for our country. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have touched every state, industry, and worker in the United States. After reaching an unprecedented high of 14% in April of 2020, the unemployment rate stands at a troubling 6% one year later and nearly 4 million more people in the U.S. are unemployed than before the pandemic.
At the same time, the most recently released infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) graded our infrastructure at a “C-,” plainly demonstrating that we must invest in fixing the basic systems that we all rely on for transportation, clean and safe water, energy, and communication. Lacking significant investments, these systems will continue to degrade with the increase in extreme weather-related events caused by climate change, placing communities and families at risk and exacerbating historic inequity and injustice.
President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will put the nation on a path to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that will create a clean, thriving, equitable economy for all. The plan calls for significant investments to rebuild and modernize our infrastructure, reduce emissions, invest in the care economy, and rebuild American manufacturing—while creating high-quality, union jobs across the country. The proposal also includes other critical provisions aimed at expanding workers’ rights and power, such as the PRO Act, legislation that would make it easier for workers to form unions and protect their rights on the job and ensuring that investments are prioritized for those workers and communities most in need.
The importance of this plan—and of ensuring that the policies included in it are enacted the right way to create high-quality, union jobs and prioritize the communities that need it most—cannot be overstated.
The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the crises our nation was already facing and the stakes for recovery are high. The American Jobs Plan recognizes the interconnected nature of the crises of climate change, income inequality, and racial injustice and has been carefully constructed to address these crises—and the economic impact of the ongoing pandemic—simultaneously.
The BlueGreen Alliance has called for ambitious investments to address our nation’s interconnected crises while rebuilding and revitalizing American infrastructure, manufacturing, and communities. The American Jobs Plan is a historic first step for addressing these crises simultaneously, spurring economic recovery, putting people back to work, and building a new economy that works for everyone.
The American Jobs Plan invests more $2 trillion in infrastructure and manufacturing. Voters agree with this approach. Recent polling confirms that 71% of voters in the Midwest believe that retooling and rebuilding American manufacturing is ‘very important’ for rebuilding the economy and creating good jobs for the future. Sixty-nine percent of those voters rated repairing and modernizing America’s aging infrastructure, including our transportation systems, energy systems, water and sewage systems, and telecommunications network as ‘very important’ for rebuilding the economy and creating the good jobs of the future.
Over the next several weeks the BlueGreen Alliance’s policy experts will be highlighting key investments and policies in the plan, and what Congress still needs to do to ensure the American Jobs Plan will create and sustain good, union jobs; reduce the emissions driving climate change; invest in our workers and communities; rebuild and retool our manufacturing sector; and modernize and make our infrastructure more resilient in the face of climate change.
Key investments include:
Water infrastructure: The quality of our nation’s water infrastructure is directly linked to public health and welfare, but the nation’s wastewater and drinking water infrastructure received failing grades of “D+” and “C-” by the ASCE respectively. The American Jobs Plan would invest $111 billion dollars in our water infrastructure, including $45 billion for lead service line replacement, $10 billion for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) remediation, and an additional $56 billion in grants and loans towards upgrading drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems. This is a significant step forward, but still only a fraction of the $434 billion investment gap identified in the ASCE report card, and Congress must increase these investments to effectively address all water infrastructure needs.
Transportation infrastructure: Roads, bridges, transit and other vital transportation systems are critical parts of our nation’s infrastructure. According to the ASCE, our country’s roads and transit systems are in need of repair, receiving failing grades of “D” and “D-”, respectively. The American Jobs Plan includes investments in repairing and modernizing roads and bridges and improving bus and rail service. Additionally, this portion of the plan includes funding to replace 50% of trucks and yellow bus stock with electric vehicles (EV), driving down transportation emissions while supporting job creation in the EV sector. Importantly, the administration has taken steps to ensure that these investments will be targeted to disadvantaged communities. The American Jobs Plan includes $625 billion in transportation investments, about half of the $1.2 trillion investment gap identified by the ASCE. There is clearly room for Congress to double down on investments in transportation.
Buildings and school infrastructure: Building efficiency is a key part of any strategy to reduce pollution and GHG emissions, cut energy bills, and create good jobs. A major part of this potential is in upgrading MUSH (Municipal, University, School, and Hospital) buildings. The American Jobs Plan includes ambitious investments in building retrofits, as well as $213 billion to produce, preserve, and retrofit affordable housing. America’s schools are also in an unacceptable state of disrepair. They are outdated and in some cases dangerous, receiving a grade of “D+” from the ASCE’s most recent infrastructure report card. More than half of the nation’s schools were built before the 1970s and have deteriorated to the point that poor air quality and lead exposure are not uncommon. The American Jobs Plan includes the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which will address this important need. However, the American Jobs Plan splits the $100 billion in funding into $50 billion for loans and $50 billion for grants. Congress should update this provision to ensure that the total $100 billion is provided as direct grants for schools to upgrade facilities.
Social infrastructure: Significantly, the American Jobs Plan recognizes that social infrastructure—the services required to promote the health and economic, cultural, and social well-being of the community—has too long been neglected and underfunded. The plan provides funding for care infrastructure, investing $400 billion in Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) and increasing the resilience of hospitals and the health care sector. The plan also prioritizes investments in community resilience through funding increases for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program to support state, local, and tribal investments in hazard mitigation projects.
Natural infrastructure: Investing in infrastructure also means protecting and restoring ecosystems and building natural defenses. The American Jobs Plan supports our nation’s natural infrastructure in a number of ways, including by providing funding to expand outdoor recreation and climate resilient infrastructure. Additionally, the plan will re-establish a Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) to fund work on climate resilience and natural infrastructure. Importantly, we must ensure that investment in restoration and resilient work creates high-quality, good-paying jobs.
Manufacturing and industrial transformation: Recent polling confirms that voters in the Midwest vigorously support making rebuilding and retooling the American manufacturing sector a critical component of recovery efforts. To address the climate crisis head on, we can modernize and transform our industrial base to make it the cleanest and most advanced in the world, while spurring the creation of a new generation of good, safe jobs manufacturing clean technology. The American Jobs Plan calls for an investment of $300 billion in revitalizing and retooling domestic manufacturing, including the extension of the 48C tax credit program to reequip, expand, or establish domestic clean energy, transportation, and grid technology manufacturing facilities.
Labor standards and job quality: As we look towards rebuilding a more equitable economy, we must ensure that the jobs we create are good, family-sustaining, union jobs that lift up American workers while spurring economic recovery and bolstering American competitiveness in the global economy. The American Jobs Plan consistently supports this vision, calling on Congress to pass H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, ensuring access to unions for public sector employees, and directing an additional $48 billion towards workforce development and worker protections.
Ensuring a fair and equitable energy transition: America’s energy transition is well underway. But a transition that is fair for workers and communities isn’t something that will happen organically. The American Jobs Plan includes many investments to support communities in transition and create high-paying, union jobs such as an immediate investment of $16 billion that will put hundreds of thousands to work plugging oil and gas wells and restoring and reclaiming abandoned coal, and hardrock mines. The plan also includes $5 billion for remediation of Brownfield and Superfund sites, and calls for increasing funding for critical agencies such as the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration to target economic development opportunities in distressed communities. While significant, Congress must bolster these investments with additional assistance for dislocated workers and communities.
The plan is a historic first step to rebuild America’s economy. However, more will be needed to invest at the scale required to solve our three crises. The BlueGreen Alliance and our partners will be working with Congress and the administration to build on this plan and ensure that it is passed quickly and implemented effectively to create a clean, thriving, and equitable future for all.