When the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is passed, the bill being called the, “most consequential legislation for working people since the great depression,” is set to be pushed through by Democrats in the Senate.
A $3.5 trillion budget plan can be passed with a simple majority of Democratic support through a special procedure known as budget reconciliation.
This sweeping legislation will address needs of the working class including: affordable housing, childcare, healthcare, and student loan debt.
KX News had the opportunity to speak with Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders, about how this bill will help get North Dakotans back to work, after the disruption of the pandemic.
The number of people that have lost jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic more than doubles the 8.6 million jobs lost during the Great Recession.
Sanders says, “What we’re doing is creating millions and millions of good-paying jobs rebuilding our country.”
8,300 people in the state are receiving COVID-19 aid income, however, Bismarck Workforce Center manager, Amy Arenz, explains there are ample jobs all over North Dakota.
“June we had over 18,000 job openings in the state. We’re seeing an increase, it hasn’t been that high since July of 2015,” says Arenz.
However, there are multiple factors that play a role in getting people to work; including finding affordable childcare or having their healthcare needs met.
“Today we don’t have enough childcare facilities, the cost of childcare is much too high, and the people who work in childcare are paid much too low,” says Sanders. “Many people in ND have received, if they are parents, a $300 for each child. We want to extend that for years to come. That would enable working families just to able to deal with the pressure and financial needs of their kids. We have already childcare poverty in America by 61% by doing that.”
Another hurdle for the working class is access to higher education and training. Sanders says that making community colleges tuition-free would give young adults who can’t afford school the opportunity to get into their desired job fields. If all young people had access to school, these positions could be filled.
“Hundreds of thousands in a given year cannot afford to get the higher education and training they need for the good-paying jobs that are out there. Young people can’t get the training. It’s unfair to them, it unfair to our economy,” Sanders says.
Pertinent occupations in North Dakota like healthcare and childcare industries are in demand for trained workers and have been for years.
Arenz reminds locals about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program that prioritizes recipients of public assistance, low-income individuals, or individuals that are basic skill deficient.
“The healthcare field in the state there’s about 3,400 openings. We do have opportunities for those who want to get into the healthcare field. We have our WIOA Program that can help with the cost of going to school,” says Arenz.
Sanders says this is a time for bold action to help set the working class up for success.
“But some of us are trying hard to protect the needs of working families and I think this legislation can expand healthcare, lower the cost of prescription drugs, make higher education affordable, make childcare certainly more affordable, help working families is a step an important step up,” explains Sanders.
The Democrat’s reconciliation bill would also tackle issues such as climate change by investing in renewable energy infrastructure and energy efficiency. It would also establish a Civilian Climate Corps that will give hundreds of thousands of young people paid jobs and educational benefits as they combat the effects of climate change.