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COMMENTARY: Biden jobs plan will boost the local economy

Our country’s infrastructure is in dire need of repair. Most agree that we must modernize roads, rebuild bridges, fix highways, upgrade airports and transit systems, protect our drinking water and repower our energy future.

For too long, we have put off addressing the state of our critical infrastructure. Our $20 trillion economy is limping along on a network of critical infrastructure that is overstretched, underfunded and deteriorating. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), our country’s infrastructure system is underfunded to the tune of $2.6 trillion.

President Joe Biden recently unveiled a sweeping new jobs bill. What he is proposing isn’t just a quick fix. It is an investment in union jobs, our economy and our collective futures.

The American Jobs Plan is the next significant initiative in Congress. It’s a long-overdue bill to fix our crumbling infrastructure. We want our communities to know that union carpenters are ready, willing and able to rebuild a stronger Southwest.

When we invest in our country and our people, we find success as a nation. If we invest in union labor, repair and build, not only are we guaranteeing good-paying jobs and quality health benefits for tens of thousands of Americans, we are also guaranteeing the quality of work that is built to last. But this bill isn’t just about jobs. It’s so much more.

This bill would have a meaningful impact on students, as it supports much-needed school construction. School infrastructure is something that the pandemic has exposed as a dire challenge. As we all know, living in the desert, school HVAC systems constantly fail during peak summer months, making it impossible for teachers to teach and students to learn.

Then there’s the issue of overcrowding, another challenge exacerbated by the pandemic. A recent ASCE study found that more than one-third of public schools have portable buildings due to capacity constraints, with 45 percent of these portable buildings in poor or fair condition. The physical safety of our children is paramount. That’s why we need to build schools that set our children up for success.

The American Jobs Plan is also about powering smart energy projects and, by extension, our economy. Like when a February cold snap left thousands freezing in the dark, Texas events show we need to focus on resiliency against extreme weather. Renewable energy and efficiency projects create jobs for skilled labor. The Southwest can be at the forefront of our country’s energy future.

The one-time infusion will also invest in electric charging stations to slash carbon emissions, which create thousands of union jobs while providing tax incentives to help all American families own clean electric vehicles.

The diverse men and women of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters are ready to get back to work. The Biden administration’s plan will help build the infrastructure that makes the Southwest economy thrive.

Frank Hawk is vice president of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.

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