On Jan. 19, 2020, a 35-year-old man presented to an urgent care clinic in Snohomish County, Wash., with a four-day history of cough and subjective fever. In less than 24 hours, his illness would be confirmed as the first case of COVID-19 in the United States. After nearly 18 months, the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic stands at over 33 million confirmed cases and almost 600,000 deaths in the U.S. alone.
In March, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan. In addition to 161 million direct stimulus payments, over 300 million Americans have now received a COVID-19 vaccination. The workforce is also showing signs of recovery; the unemployment rate slowed to 5.8%, and U.S. employers added 559,000 jobs in May. State level restrictions on gatherings and in-person work are being lifted and our communities are slowly beginning a transition back to normalcy.
While the trajectory is positive, our nation emerges from the pandemic forever changed. Nearly 1 in 3 small businesses have closed. Women have been hit particularly hard. Over two million have been forced out of work due to a lack of affordable child care and persisting pay inequality. In minority communities especially, young entrepreneurs continue to face challenges in obtaining financing to capitalize new ventures. Meanwhile, millions of Americans already living with the realities of income and wealth inequality are now struggling to survive. In state legislatures across the country, civil rights and personal freedom are also under attack.
In times of adversity, my father always said, “Find ways that you can, not reasons why you can’t.” He believed that amid our greatest challenges lie our most promising opportunities. More importantly, he believed that our ability to seize those opportunities is dependent upon how we respond to adversity as it happens. This pandemic, and our nation’s future, are no exception.
Rarely does a society have its collective conscience stirred to the point of reexamining shared values, beliefs and moral attitudes. The Great Depression, World War II, and Sept. 11 all set the stage for our nation to emerge from tragedy and chart a new course. The COVID-19 pandemic presents the same opportunity. Already, we see companies prioritizing work life balance with permanently remote work or hybrid models. We see millions of employees in service positions banding together to demand a living wage. We’ve seen business owners adapt in unprecedented ways to meet the changing needs of their customers. They are choosing to seize opportunity despite adversity by finding ways that they can instead of reasons why they can’t. The Biden administration is determined to do the same.
The American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan outline once-in-a-generation investments in our nation’s future.
The American Jobs Plan will put millions back to work rebuilding our country’s ailing infrastructure. Prioritizing investment in our roads, bridges, public transit networks, energy infrastructure and manufacturing capacity will position the United States to out-compete China and deliver a higher standard of living for all Americans.
The American Families Plan acknowledges that investment in our nation’s physical infrastructure is only half of the equation. Investing in our children and our families is also critical. By making community colleges and trade schools more affordable, and expanding on union apprenticeships, the plan lightens the burden of student debt while preparing our children to succeed. For working families, the plan addresses the high cost and scarcity of child care and ensures that families have access to universal paid leave and maternity care. Finally, the plan provides tax relief for middle-class families and extends the health-care premium tax credits that make health insurance coverage affordable for millions of our friends and neighbors.
America has always been the land of opportunity. Despite intense adversity, we must seize this opportunity to refocus our collective priorities and chart a bold new path with the American Jobs and American Families Plans. Together, we can stand tall to “find ways that we can, not reasons why we can’t.”
Dan Davenport is a Washington business owner and Democratic Committee member living in Amity, Washington County.