(RNS) — One year — 12 short months — can make all the difference in the world.
At this time one year ago, COVID-19 was in the midst of a winter surge putting family get-togethers at risk. A fraught election had a clear winner and a clear loser.
A year ago, the economy was flailing, with businesses closing and offices nationwide remaining empty. Masks and Zoom calls were the norm. Meeting friends and family for coffee and a meal did not feel right, let alone safe.
Now, that one short year later, we have vaccines. We even have boosters.
And we have a healthy economy. We have a historic investment in infrastructure, and we’re about to have historic investments in people — when the Senate passes Build Back Better.
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan makes sure that our COVID-19 recovery and better economy is for everyone and for the long term, not just the next couple of years. It is a plan that sets the stage, at long last, for the 21st century economy that should have started more than 20 years ago. This requires new jobs, new industries, new energy sources, new ideas and new priorities about what our national norms should be.
The House just passed the BBB plan, and when the Senate passes the bill, we will see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drastically transform the well-being of millions of Americans for the better.
Our Quaker organization has worked closely with scores of faith-based organizations and constituents to talk to Congress about the moral imperative of this bill to address equity and justice for people across our country. Our faith compels us to “love our neighbor” and to see all of God’s people flourish. Build Back Better reflects this, investing in children, families, communities and the environment.
Build Back Better provides for universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds and an investment of roughly $150 billion in construction, rehabilitation and improvement of more than a million affordable homes. It provides thousands of visas for immigrants currently on waitlists, creates safeguards for undocumented communities and invests more than half a trillion dollars in clean energy and addressing the ongoing climate crisis.
We didn’t get everything we wanted in BBB (no one did). But it is not controversial to state that the United States — specifically the economy — had several systemic flaws before the pandemic. COVID-19 laid them bare. The bill addresses far too many of these flaws for the Senate to wait or to haggle over essential investments.
But BBB does more than simply fix what was broken. It is truly groundbreaking legislation for all the people of our country, that gives us a chance to start anew. BBB makes significant progress in reducing economic and racial disparities throughout the U.S. on issues affecting children and families that have not been adequately addressed in decades.
This starts with a historic expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. These alone can cut child poverty nearly in half. These are investments in our country’s future, but, when taken in conjunction with green climate initiatives, they also represent investment in the future of our shared planet.
Yes, a lot has changed over the last 12 months. But far too much has not. To create sustainable positive change, Congress must pass Build Back Better, making the U.S. stronger through investments in our people.
Our country and humanity are stronger when we recognize the inherent dignity and worth of each person. That is something we can all agree on going into the holiday season.
(Diane Randall is the general secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a national, nonpartisan Quaker lobby for peace, justice and the environment. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)