In this month’s column, Rep. Jake Wheatley discusses the American Rescue Plan, which will make investments to the city, county, and state.

Photo: Office of Rep. Wheatley

A little more than a year ago, we saw our first confirmed case of COVID-19 and it changed our city, state, and country forever. We have experienced much disruption in our lives and in some cases, we’ve lost family members, friends, and neighbors. This past year, we have faced forced closings of our businesses, shutdowns of our schools, and periods where we were asked to stay in our homes with limited contact and interactions with others. This unforeseen set of circumstances has caused mental, physical, and financial stress on all of us. Thankfully, with the leadership and support of our president and congressional members, some significant support is heading our way. I want to give a public and loud “Thank You” to President Biden, Senator Casey, Congressman Doyle, and Congressman Lamb for this extremely significant and timely support package.

As your state representative and the Democratic Chair of the Pennsylvania House Professional Licensure Committee, I can assure you that without this additional $22 billion in federal support from the American Rescue Plan, which includes more than seven billion dollars directly to our state, we would be facing much harsher realities. Our commonwealth has a budget hole of close to four billion dollars, and the additional federal support will not close that structural challenge. But it will give us the opportunity to send immediate assistance directly to you and your communities without the pressures of finding ways to pay for it. 

As I stated last year, our small local businesses have been hit hard and they need our support. To that end, I plan to call for another infusion of direct support to these entrepreneurs. Many of our essential workers have bravely stood in the gaps for us while facing this pandemic head-on. They deserve our recognition and honor, but more importantly, they deserve to be fairly compensated for their work during this hazardous time. I will again call for some of these funds to be paid to them as additional hazard pay. 

This pandemic further exposed how misaligned and inadequate our current systems are in supporting our working families. I will call for a greater focus on coordination between our childcare systems, school systems, and after-school systems and demand we provide a significant infusion of federal dollars to assist them in creating a family-centered support system for our working families. 

Finally, I will push to significantly invest in rebuilding and expanding our infrastructure. We must invest in our water systems, broadband access, and on our roadways if we are to move our region and commonwealth forward. We must have a vision and then be ready to put it into action. Staying still and managing infrastructure cannot sustain us any longer — in fact, it is part of how we got to where we are now. I am calling on my colleagues in the General Assembly and Gov. Wolf to use some of the federal money we will receive to create our own state infrastructure bank and work with private industry to prioritize significant infrastructure needs and regional investments. This endeavor will put our people back to work and move Pennsylvania forward!

The American Rescue Plan includes many investments for our city, our county, and our state, including childcare tax credits, direct support to our public schools to further education resources and keep them and the children they educate safe. It’s vital we use these resources to help build our communities back and make them stronger than before. Please know that my team and I are here to help you, whether it’s connecting you with local programs and services, or if you need information about state services to help you and your loved ones. Please call The People’s Office at 412-471-7760 or email me at jwheatley@pahouse.net.

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