One of America’s defining characteristics is our resilience and ability to adapt to change. With nearly 600,000 fellow Americans dying from the pandemic, this grim reality has forced us to ask ourselves what is necessary to survive and thrive. Essential workers — including health care workers, grocery store clerks, teachers and those who provide the services and functions that we depend on daily — have stepped up. And as we start down the path to recovery, our workforce is hungry for innovation and opportunity. It’s time for America to invest in our workers.
President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan recognizes the need to address both COVID-19 and climate change while continuously investing in America’s best resource: our people. The plan demonstrates that supporting workers, creating jobs and protecting the environment all go hand in hand. Everyone who stands for fair, union jobs and climate action can come together. In this plan, pro-workers and pro-environment voices can sing in unison.
This comprehensive plan is placing a bet on America’s workers. And he is putting money behind it by urging Congress to invest $35 billion in comprehensive solutions to position America as a global leader in clean energy technology and jobs. The president’s American Jobs Plan promises not to return to what was once normal but to reimagine, rebuild, and modernize our economy with a future in which everyone can thrive. It is a commitment to a worker-centered approach to tackling the biggest challenges of our time.
The American Jobs Plan aims to boost climate action, job creation and update aging infrastructure, especially in homegrown clean, renewable energy and transportation. Congress can address COVID-19 and climate change while forging a future where America is once again a hub of manufacturing and technology. And we can help everyone be a part of this jobs revolution by providing workers with training and well-paying jobs.
The president has set goals of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and we will need well-trained and well-paid workers to make that happen. Meeting this goal will also require federal leadership from all elected representatives and senators. By centering innovation and justice, as the American Jobs Plan does, America can fundamentally transform the nature of our energy grid to not only power our lives but provide remarkable economic opportunities for communities who have not benefited from our current system, namely Black, Latinx, indigenous, low-income and rural working communities. Florida is well equipped to get started. Nearly 200,000 people work in clean energy, and the American Jobs Plan will further boost this industry.
Another opportunity for historic growth is in our transportation infrastructure. In Florida, drivers and riders know all too well how poor transportation harms our health and diminishes our quality of life. In Florida, there are more than 400 bridges and 3,500 miles of highway in poor condition. More than 15% of trains and other transit vehicles in the state are past their useful life, and Floridians who take public transportation spend an extra 78% of their time commuting. Upgrades are needed to make our public transportation systems accessible and easy to use for all. Only by investing in American workers can we accomplish this major overhaul.
President Biden is aiming to modernize transportation with equity in mind. He has called for a $621 billion investment in transportation infrastructure and resilience, including significant updates to our aging highways and bridges and expanding public transit. These investments meet the needs of working-class and low-income communities by providing better jobs and better transportation options for all.
The American Jobs Plan is the intersectional blueprint America needs to build back better. Our country has faced great turmoil before, and we always bounce back. In response to the Great Depression, America found hope and help with the Civilian Conservation Corps and Rural Electrification Act. We know that when we invest in workers — and when we strategically protect both people and planet — we can achieve great things. But we need Florida’s congressional leadership to get it done. In a time of division, President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will unify and mobilize the country to meet the greatest challenges of our time, including COVID-19 and the climate crisis.
Aliki Moncrief is the executive director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Florida Conservation Voters. Dr. Rich Templin is the legislative and political director for the Florida chapter of the American Federation of Labor — Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).