Comment: Local leaders key to American Rescue Plan’s success

A year after passage, the covid relief effort is being put to use by officials in Everett and elsewhere.

By Suzan DelBene and Cassie Franklin / For The Herald

In the more than two years since the first U.S. cases of covid-19 were identified in Snohomish County, Americans watched as the virus spread to family members, friends and colleagues. We endured school closures, business shutdowns, layoffs and more, in our region and across the country.

As we learn to live with this virus, we must also use this as an opportunity to grow from the challenges of this pandemic. Covid-19 exposed and exacerbated many existing problems in our communities; from child care affordability to internet access to resources to keep small businesses open.

Often what happens in Washington, D.C., can seem far removed from the problem or the solutions we need. Parents wonder how Congress is helping them afford child care, pay their bills, or create jobs in our communities.

Yet, as a mayor and a congresswoman, we know that our government works best when local and federal officials join hands and work together to help our communities. We both witnessed that in the early days of the pandemic as we saw the around-the-clock response our public health and first responders employed to protect our communities.

As the virus raged across nearly every corner of the country, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, which recognized that there would not be a one-size-fits-all solution for every state, city and town. That’s why the law ensured $350 billion went directly to states, counties and cities to bolster response and recovery efforts. These resources could go toward paying frontline workers, providing grants to small businesses and even expanding broadband so that workers could better work from home; in many cases wherever the community needed more funds to combat the fallout from the pandemic.

A year after President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, the evidence is clear that the law was a resounding success; and local officials were key to making that happen.

Nationally, 4.2 million fewer Americans are uninsured than in 2019 because of improved health insurance subsidies and 3.7 million fewer children are in poverty because of the expanded Child Tax Credit. Both of these policies were part of the Rescue Plan. Experts at Moody’s said the law was responsible for creating more than four million jobs in 2021.

But these investments in families and economic growth alone would not be an adequate response. The Rescue Plan allows us to make real, substantial and lasting changes to address the inequalities we see around us. And as we rebuild our economy and communities, we must keep in mind those words we all know by heart: “With liberty and justice for all.”

And that’s exactly what we are seeing in cities from coast to coast.

In Everett, Mayor Franklin’s implementation plan recommends investing in child care and early learning so parents who are returning to work have access to high-quality services and education for their children. Franklin proposes spending up to $3 million to repurpose existing spaces, build playgrounds, launch a child care worker training program, and host a free-tuition preschool. In addition, the Rescue Plan will mean investments in green infrastructure and climate resiliency projects, such as urban tree-planting measures and stormwater parks in underserved communities that combine stormwater control, habitat protection and park access.

Mayors across the country are similarly taking advantage of this moment to build a better future for everyone; especially those who were most affected by the pandemic. Many of them are NewDEAL Leaders, innovative state and local elected officials focused on enacting progressive, pro-growth ideas. Their efforts can be found in a new report this week highlighting their Rescue Plan success stories.

President Biden and members of Congress understood our local leaders knew how to best put these resources to work for our constituents. A year after the bill became law, we have seen these elected officials embrace the spirit of the law, with families reaping the benefits.

Together, we can — and we are — building a healthier, more prosperous, and brighter future.

U.S. Rep Suzan DelBene represents Washington’s 1st Congressional District and is chair of the New Democrat Coalition. Cassie Franklin is the mayor of Everett and a NewDEAL leader.

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