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Recovery Priorities

President Joe Biden has put out his American Jobs and Families Plan (AJFP) for recovery.  Congress has already gotten to work on the recovery package and our partners at the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) have finalized their policy priorities for recovery. 

Since Progressives have shared priorities, they can negotiate collectively to get these policies in the final recovery package. Progressives can commit their votes together as a voting bloc and use that leverage in legislative negotiations to secure progressive wins and prevent harmful compromises, and we’re excited to see them use it to win these necessary components of a robust and inclusive recovery.  

The CPC Priorities Include:

  1. Pathway to Citizenship 
  2. Dramatically Lower Drug Prices & Use Savings to Pay for Public Health Expansion
  3. Investments in Climate
  4. Investments in the Care Economy 
  5. Investments in Housing

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s what the CPC did for the American Rescue Plan! This play resulted in some huge progressive wins like $1400 checks and extended Unemployment Insurance making it into the final bill. 

In this resource, we will discuss:

  • The Timeline of recovery.
  • The Budget process and the need to prioritize the overall size of recovery. 
  • What key priorities are missing from Biden’s AJFP.
  • What key priorities are included in Biden’s plan, but don’t go far enough
  • What you can do

Timeline

Now that Biden has released his plan and the CPC has its priorities, Congress must get to work drafting the boldest recovery possible.  The good news is that Progressives have leveraged their power to ensure that Congress moves a progressive reconciliation package alongside a bipartisan infrastructure bill. This ensures that progressive priorities, like investments in jobs, child care, climate action, health care, and more, which cannot get bipartisan support, have a path forward in Congress.

Speed is critical since Congress can’t begin work on a reconciliation bill until the budget resolution is out. The budget resolution is a budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year and will include reconciliation instructions to committees. Once committees have their reconciliation instructions, Congress will need to work quickly to put together a recovery package. Republicans will continue to obstruct and attempt to run out the clock, and some Democrats are going to get cold feet, so we need to keep the pressure on to make sure this gets done. Leadership has said they want to pass a budget resolution before August recess and we need to hold them to that goal!

Size of Recovery

Now that we have key policy priorities to fight for, we must also urge Congress to prioritize expanding the size, scope, and speed of their legislative package. While this may seem like a 1000 foot view of recovery, it’s important given we expect recovery to be passed via reconciliation. 

First, the size of the investment matters. The Budget Committee will put out a budget resolution, which puts a limit on the overall size of the package Congress can create. The budget resolution must allow for the massive investments we need.  Knowing the importance of the size of recovery Indivisible, and our partners at the Green New Deal Network have worked closely with Sen. Markey and Rep. Dingell to create the THRIVE Act which demands that the recovery fight be grounded in climate, jobs, and justice and the bar high for the overall size of recovery.

THRIVE goes big, investing  $1 trillion per year for the next 10 years, which economists tell us that this investment would produce more than 15 million good jobs--what we need to end the unemployment crisis! We have a short period of time to influence the size of recovery with a bold budget resolution so it’s important to let Congress know this is a top priority. 

What Is Missing From The American Jobs and Families Plan?

There are two recovery priorities that are not included in Biden’s plan at all. We must demand Congress include these critical policies in the final recovery package. For more information on what is included in Biden’s AJFP check out this resource

Pathway to Citizenship

We know that immigrants, including those without status, are critical members of communities all across the country, and make up a huge percentage of the essential workers who have supported our country through this long, terrifying, and devastating pandemic. 

We join the CPC in calling for: 

  • Citizenship for DACA recipients, TPS holders, and essential workers. 
  • Inclusion of all immigrants in the recovery package. 

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that our fates are closely tied. We cannot have a full and inclusive recovery while leaving huge swaths of our communities behind. 

 

Lower Drug Prices & Reinvest Savings Back into Medicare

There is overwhelming public support for taking action to lower the price of prescription drugs in the United States.  The American people are tired of spending twice as much per capita on the same prescription drugs that are sold in other industrialized countries for much less. To add insult to injury Americans pay absorbently high prices for drugs that they paid to create; in fact, a large portion of the COVID-19 vaccine development was paid for by taxpayers

Progressives know that any recovery must include robust prescription drug price reforms. We support the CPC in fighting to build from and improve H.R. 3 - Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act by including the following policies to the bill:

  • Allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, limit high launch prices, and impose restrictions on increasing prices.
  • Ensure low cost prescription drugs are available to everyone, including the uninsured.
  • Cap the price of prescription drugs in the U.S. to the average price in peer countries.
  • Include strong inflation protections & negotiation enforcement, like tax penalties.
  • Expand Medicare benefits to include coverage of essential services such as hearing, dental, and vision.
  • Lower the Medicare age of eligibility age and cap out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries.

Lowering the age to qualify for the Medicare program is extremely popular among both Democrat and Republican voters. In a 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, nearly 85% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans supported this reform. Our Congressional allies know that our older communities should be guaranteed access to comprehensive affordable care.

What Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Biden’s AJFP is very broad in scope, touches on many sectors of the economy, and has accompanying standards for investments. This is good! However, the AJFP does not spend nearly enough money in these sectors or include the standards necessary to make good policy. 

Climate

The AJFP includes three important climate policies:

  • Establishment of a federal Clean Energy Standard (CES).
  • Investment in green infrastructure jobs, including through the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps. 
  • 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments are directed to disadvantaged communities.

While these are good first steps, none of these policies go far enough to address the crises of mass unemployment, racial injustice, or climate change facing our nation. 

Both Biden and the CPC have called for a federal Clean Electricity Standard. However, Biden doesn’t outline what this policy should look like, which means it is up to Congress to fill in the details. Thankfully, Rep. Welch and Rep. Clarke have introduced the American Renewable Energy Act which establishes an ambitious renewable energy standard to drastically reduce emissions, decrease pollution, and promote community resiliency and energy democracy. 

Biden’s inclusion of a Civilian Climate Corps(CCC) is another good step, but we need to fill in the details of what this looks like. Progressives know that any CCC must set corps members up for success during and after their year of service; this means providing a living wage of at least $15/hour for all corps members, strong benefits to help corps members and their families thrive. Importantly, CCC programs should direct half of investments made into overburdened communities, and recruit at least half of its corps members from those same places. The program should also ensure gender equity, provide opportunities for corps members of a range of ages and abilities, give corps members opportunities regardless of immigration status, protect tribal sovereignty, and more. Climate jobs are the future and we must fight to ensure these programs are done right. 

Prioritizing 40 percent of benefits and investments to disadvantaged communities is a critical part of recovery for communities who have borne the brunt of an extractive economy for decades, seen their communities polluted and poisoned, and have faced deadly consequences in the wake of COVID. Now that Biden has called for 40% benefits and investments to be directed to disadvantaged communities, the CPC is fighting to include the Environmental Justice Mapping and Data Collection Act in the final recovery package. This bill establishes an interagency committee to gather, map, and layer environmental justice data, which will provide the framework needed to get money out the door and into frontline communities. 

Care Economy

Paid Family and Medical Leave

The AJFP lays out a plan to create a national paid family and medical leave program that would offer between two thirds and 80% wage replacement for 12 weeks of parental, family, personal illness, or safety leave by year 10 of the program.

Waiting 10 years to phase in a desperately needed program simply does not meet the needs of American families. The timeline must be drastically accelerated so families feel the benefits as soon as possible. Additionally, workers need higher wage replacement rates so that taking leave is actually affordable. Especially low-income workers cannot afford to go without 20% of their income, meaning this new leave program would remain practically out of reach for them. And Congress must ensure that this program is truly universal, covering every worker, instead of allowing exceptions that would let vulnerable families fall through the cracks. 

Child Care

The AJFP would ensure that parents only pay a certain percentage of their income on childcare on a sliding scale, with more generous benefits for lower income families, and also pairs investments in child care facilities, family providers, and early head start programs with investments in the child care workforce.

This proposal is a recognition of the centrality of child care to a fair and functioning economy where parents can afford high quality child care and enrichment opportunities for their children. However, a truly transformative proposal would be universal in scope, without unnecessary barriers like work requirements that discriminate against families facing economic precarity, the very people that need this assistance most. Congress should achieve these goals by including the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Mondaire Jones.

Home and Community-Based Care

The AJFP invests $400 billion into our care economy, specifically to:

  • Expand access to home and community-based services through Medicaid for aging relatives of people with disabilities.
  • Improve the quality of caregiving jobs by raising wages and ensuring the free and fair choice to join a union and collectively bargain.

This investment is an excellent start and a testament to the tireless organizing of caregiving workers who have advocated for years that their industry can be a central pillar of the middle class while providing a better quality of life for millions of families. 

The specifics of this plan matter, so it’s good news that Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) have introduced the Better Care Better Jobs Act, which writes this plan into legislation with strong protections for caregivers,  the high quality and affordable care for families who need it, and equitable access for low-income communities and communities of color. That includes guaranteeing at least $15 an hour for caregiving workers and ensuring they have the right to form a union.

Housing 

The AJFP includes a few important policies to address the housing crisis: 

  • Invest $213 billion to produce, preserve, and retrofit more than two million homes;
  • It includes funds to repair public housing and weatherize homes; and
  • Incentives for communities to adopt inclusionary zoning to expand the housing supply.

While this plan represents an important opportunity, it lacks both the scale and detail required to meet the urgent housing needs of communities across the country, particularly in the lowest-income communities, tribal communities, and other communities of color, and for people with disabilities. 

To meet that need, the CPC will fight to guarantee Housing Choice Vouchers for all eligible Americans and guarantee that spending each year by making it mandatory, rather than discretionary. They will also work to address the critical backlog in public housing maintenance and repairs by investing at least $70 billion in those projects. They are prioritizing spending $45 billion per year on the National Housing Trust Fund, with $26 billion specifically for unsheltered individuals. Demands also include eliminating the “Faircloth Amendment,” which blocks the expansion of public housing, so the federal government can finally build and acquire more units to meet the needs of more communities. Upgrades on housing through the weatherization and energy efficiency programs must occur at scale, consistent with the Green New Deal for Public Housing. And finally, the CPC is calling for a federal Affordable Housing Acquisition fund to build resilience against economic downturns by securing sites for development or preservation of affordable housing.

What You Can Do

As Progressives work together to include their priorities in recovery, we must support them in this fight.

You can call your Member of Congress and demand they work to quickly pass recovery, include our key priorities in recovery, and expand the overall size of the package.

The CPC saw huge wins in the American Rescue Plan by working with one another and with progressive organizations to create a powerful voting bloc and we are looking forward to passing a recovery package that works for all people.