Originally published in Arizona Daily Star.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the American dream was falling out of reach for too many in Arizona and across the nation. But the pandemic has only further exposed what has been true for far too long: The deck has been stacked for big corporations and the wealthy while working families continue to be left behind.
Despite a record economic rebound with gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021 reaching its highest annual growth since 1984 and unemployment insurance claims near their lowest levels in 50 years — the last two years have aggravated many existing challenges and prompted new ones.
One such challenge is the high cost of child care. Even though the federal government considers child care “affordable” only when it costs less than 7% of a family’s income, many working families spend 35% of their income on this basic necessity.
A minimum-wage worker in Arizona spends, on average, about 44% of their income on child care. And the high cost of child care makes it harder for parents, especially working moms, to hold down a job. With many struggling to afford child care, it continues to slow our nation’s economic recovery and stifle working families’ ability to recover financially from the pandemic.
And now, higher prices, exacerbated by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and unprecedented supply chain disruptions from the pandemic, are straining household budgets and depriving workers of the full benefits of our strong economy and the largest wage gains we’ve seen in years.
My Democratic colleagues and I understand that we need to lower costs, raise wages and reinvest in working families and communities so that more Americans can get ahead. That is why I was proud to help enact a government funding bill that will help the middle class and working families afford the cost of living in America and right here in the 3rd District of Arizona.
e’re addressing inflation, rising costs and prices at the pump. Democrats are fighting to increase wages and protect consumers from price gouging by Big Oil and meat processors who are raking in record profits.
To help alleviate this burden, the government funding bill includes $158 million to help small and medium American manufacturers with supply chain issues. It also invests $37 million in efforts to expand clean and renewable energy sources, weaning our dependency off Big Oil. For our nation to truly be energy independent, we must end our reliance on fossil fuels by expanding renewable energy technologies.
Investing in our community’s future is critical, which is why I helped secure more than $6.3 million for community projects for the 3rd District of Arizona. These funds support jobs, underserved areas, tribal communities, schools, seniors, health care facilities, foster economic development, and address environmental issues in Southern Arizona. Each project will revitalize our community and make it healthier and more resilient than before.
Our legislation does so much to help working Arizona families. It helps families tackle child care needs and early learning through increased funding for child care and development programs, Head Start, and preschool development grants.
To help students access better opportunities, the bill provides record funding for education, including for high-poverty students and students with disabilities, English-language learners and expands access to postsecondary education through successful programs like Pell Grants.
But funding for education alone is not enough. That is why we are investing in high-quality job training and apprenticeship programs to ensure today’s workers have the skills to succeed in good-paying union jobs, filling the many job openings for which employers cannot find qualified workers.
To make sure that we are supporting Main Street businesses, this job training is coupled with strong support for small-business owners and entrepreneurs with increased funding for the Small Business Administration and Community Development Financial Institutions to help our local businesses get the capital they need to grow and thrive.
No one can thrive in the 21st century economy without internet access, and this legislation meets the demands of our modern world with funding to connect more communities, especially in rural and tribal areas, to high-speed internet. It also expands teleheath provisions that have made health care accessible throughout the pandemic.
Finally, this bill will strengthen core government services that working families rely on, such as taxpayer services at the IRS to help people get tax refunds quicker. Even better, we pay for these increases by cracking down on big corporations and wealthy tax cheats who are not paying their fair share.
After decades of disinvestment catering to the wealthy and well-connected, it is time to put government to work for working people. This bill isn’t perfect. There’s still a lot of work to do and legislation that the Senate needs to address. But I am proud of the transformative investments in the government funding bill we just passed and President Joe Biden signed into law that will help the middle class and working families in Arizona.