By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
For over a year, Americans have heard about President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which aims to strengthen the economy by uplifting working individuals and families through job creations and tax cuts.
Last week, Biden announced the framework for the Build Back Better plan. The framework, which is available on the White House’s official website, lays out the plan’s overall goals. These goals include lowering the cost of child care, combating climate change, expanding health care coverage, strengthening the middle class and more.
“The overall framework is focused on improving people’s lives, making our communities more stable, resilient, making sure the economy works for everybody,” U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Don Graves said in an interview with the Milwaukee Courier.
Graves said the bill is split into hard infrastructure investments and soft infrastructure. Hard infrastructure includes investments in roads, bridges and transit – making sure people in underserved communities can get to work and school, Graves said.
Other hard infrastructure includes access to clean drinking water and expanding broadband access.
“Access to affordable, quality high-speed broadband was a real problem in communities of color particularly African American communities,” Graves said. “It was just made even more problematic as a result of the pandemic.”
The plan includes a $65 billion investment in broadband.
Soft infrastructure includes lowering the cost of child care and health care.
In August, the White House released a fact sheet explaining how the Build Back Better bill is designed to support Black Americans. This support looks like lowering the cost of prescription drugs, child care, health care, higher education and housing.
According to the fact sheet, only 62.6% of Black children ages 3 and 4 are enrolled in preschool or kindergarten programs. The Build Back Better plan will lower child care costs and implement universal preschool. The bill will also ensure 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, as part of its efforts to improve the Black maternal health outcomes.
Access to affordable child care is an important issue in the African American community, Graves said. Having affordable and quality child care as an option helps parents go back to work, which in turn boosts the economy and supports child care providers, the majority of whom are women of color, Graves noted.
As far as health care is concerned, the Build Back Better plan will lower the costs for individuals who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act. It will also expand Medicare coverage to include dental, vision and hearing.
“Health care should be a right, not a privilege, and Americans facing illness should never have to worry about how they are going to pay for their treatment,” the statement on the Build Back Better framework read.
Under Build Back Better, the Affordable Care Act’s premium tax credit will be extended through 2025, Graves said, which will make sure that 3 million people have access to health care. It’s about making sure everybody has access to quality care at an affordable cost, he said.
“It’s really getting at parts of our system that are truly, problematic for the African American community, but overall, it’s trying to bring down costs,” Graves said. “When you make overall infrastructure investments – investments in communities, investments in minority businesses, African American-owned businesses – you’re also making it easier for people to get the type of care they need and to afford the type of care they need.”
The investments will pay for themselves, Graves said, because they will create jobs and support economic growth especially among small and mid-size businesses.
At the moment, the Build Back Better bill is being reviewed by the House and could be passed in the days to come.
“The overall framework is really focused on making sure our communities are stable, that they have the type of investments that are necessary for us to be competitive globally,” Graves said.
He continued, “We know that the world is changing, we also know that our infrastructure is crumbling and that our workforce needs the type of support to out-compete the rest of the world. That’s what this whole framework is about – to make sure that we can out-compete the rest of the world and that we’re building an economy that is inclusive and broad-based.
To view the Build Back Better plan framework click here or visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/10/28/president-biden-announces-the-build-back-better-framework/.