The American Rescue Plan worked

CSCCE, UC Berkeley

When schools began reopening in 2021 and the cost of childcare soared, Carolyn worried that she could not afford before and after-school childcare for her son in Washington state. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan’s child tax credit provision, Carolyn and millions of American families were able to pay for this care. While the program was temporary, it was one of many ways that the Rescue Plan had a positive impact in support of American families. 

As we reach the first anniversary of President Biden signing the American Rescue Plan into law, the obvious questions include: How did it help? Where or whom did it help the most? And most importantly, did the $1.9 trillion bill do what Congress and the president intended? Did it help Americans get back to work and rebuild communities with an eye towards reducing the inequities that were magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

The one-year progress report shows the remarkable short-term results it achieved, and sets the stage for positive long-term impacts. According to financial experts at Moody’s, the Rescue Plan added four million new jobs. In addition, the nation is “currently on track to recover all the jobs lost in the pandemic by the second quarter of 2022.” Without the legislation, America would have come close to facing stagnating unemployment and a double-digit recession in 2021. The American Rescue Plan worked and is continuing to support communities and families across the nation. 

Another key provision in the Rescue Plan was its unprecedented investments in tribal nations, states, counties, and cities to rebuild in a way that is more equitable and works for all Americans. We knew that to truly build a better America required federal support that was flexible, and Congress trusted that local leaders like governors, county executives, mayors, and legislators could invest in solutions tailored to the needs of their constituents. We knew that communities like the City of Lakewood, Wash., or New Castle County, Del., would have very different needs and priorities. 

This $350 billion investment, championed by federal partners, gave state and local leaders a unique opportunity to solve immediate and long-term challenges.  

In Phoenix, Mayor Kate Gallego addressed immediate needs by creating a mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccine site, partnering with faith and community leaders to bring health care to underserved areas. Given that project’s success, the city has used Rescue Plan funding to outfit a mobile workforce development unit where residents receive assistance with job applications and even participate in Zoom interviews.

In Columbus, Ohio, the city has used the funds to combat rising costs of childcare and lack of childcare staff. City Council President Shannon Hardin and Councilmember Elizabeth Brown have led an effort to provide signing bonuses to new child care workers to ensure the industry has the workforce to recover fully, while also providing scholarships for hundreds of low-income families. They knew that to support the families in their community, and to avoid more child care deserts, they needed to act fast.  

Other cities are using Rescue Plan funds to address the digital divide. Before the pandemic, 79 percent of white adults had home broadband access compared to 66 percent of Black adults and 61 percent of Hispanic adults. After COVID caused schools to close and a transition to working from home, a study from Rice University found 1 in 10 white parents reported challenges with internet and/or digital access compared to 1 in 3 Black families and 1 in 4 Hispanic families. And even pre-COVID, an NTIA survey indicated AAPI families were 4 percent less likely to go online compared to their white non-Hispanic peers. 

As we look to the long-term potential of the Rescue Plan, we can turn to Brownsville, Texas, where Mayor Trey Mendez took office in one of America’s most poorly connected cities in 2019. The city chose to use these funds to build out 95 miles of infrastructure and bring broadband to some of the most underserved communities in the area.

These are just a few examples of how the Rescue Plan is making a positive impact across America. A new report from NewDEAL, which supports a network of innovative state and local leaders, provides a repository of these projects. State and local governments are investing in a wide array of initiatives that best meet their needs: from infrastructure to health care, to housing, to workforce development, and small businesses. Overall, local governments have initiated more than 2,300 projects through the American Rescue Plan, according to the Brookings Institute.

There is no question that the recovery from COVID-19, and its many variants, has been uneven. We still have a great deal of work ahead — from the halls of Congress to city halls.

But, the American Rescue Plan worked. We are already seeing how investments over just the past year are building a brighter future for all Americans.

Marilyn Strickland represents Washington’s 10th District and is an honorary co-chair of NewDEAL. Debbie Cox Bultan is CEO of NewDEAL.

Tags American Rescue Plan COVID-19 Joe Biden Kate Gallego

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