Opinion: The American Rescue Plan is worth celebrating in Michigan

By Winnie Brinks

March 22, 2024

In politics, a week can feel like a lifetime. So it is no surprise that the American Rescue Plan, signed into law three years ago, is not top of mind in our collective memories. However, it was not that long ago that our communities faced an unprecedented crisis.

From communities in Michigan, where I have the honor of serving as the state’s Senate majority leader, to cities and towns across the country, Americans were reeling not only from the health implications of the COVID pandemic, but with economic impacts as well. We all remember the high rate of unemployment, businesses on the brink of closing, and the cloud of uncertainty hanging over us. Americans were hurting, and we needed bold, decisive action.

In March 2021, Democrats in Congress and President Biden delivered the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), setting the stage for local, state, and federal cooperation to heal our nation. On the third anniversary of this landmark legislation, it is imperative to reflect on the positive impact this law continues to have here in Michigan and across the country.

In Michigan, we are investing the $6.5 billion from ARPA into programs that not only help residents in the midst of a crisis, but will help our communities grow and prosper for years to come.

During the height of COVID recovery, access to child care was one of the greatest threats to enabling parents to get back to work. That’s why Gov. Whitmer invested $365 million from ARPA to provide both bonuses to childcare professionals as well as operational grants directly to child care businesses. The funding helped more than 5,500 child care providers across the state so they could remain open during the hardest of times, and continue today to provide high-quality child care.

Federal funds from ARPA continue to flow into Michigan, and Governor Whitmer has since gained productive partners in Michigan’s new Democratic majorities in the Senate and House. In June, the Small Business Support Hubs program was announced, which will provide $75 million of investment for the state’s small business ecosystem. The goal is to both increase the number of businesses who have access to various support services, as well as cultivate a more inclusive and integrated system for small business entrepreneurs. We have been able to appropriate funds to increase our state’s environmental sustainability, workforce and economic development, public safety, and so much more.

And Michigan is not alone in making improvements with ARPA funds. In Phoenix, Mayor Kate Gallego approved the use of $3 million of ARPA funds to provide free Wi-Fi access in public and affordable housing communities for the next three years, benefitting nearly 5,000 low-income households across the city.

In Milwaukee, Mayor Cavalier Johnson is using $25 million of ARPA funds to provide faster help to families in homes with lead pipes and lead paint.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird steered ARPA funds to partnerships with local hospitals and agencies to create pathways to train more nurses and childcare professionals. These jobs will not only help residents today, but will ensure Lincoln has the kind of workforce that will allow the city to thrive in the years to come.

Beyond these stories, national figures show the breadth and depth of ARPA’s success. When signed into law, the nation’s unemployment rate was 6.%1. Since then, nearly 14 million jobs have been created and the nation’s unemployment rate has been below 4% for 24 consecutive months, a feat not accomplished since 1967. And the recovery saw historic drops in the Black and Hispanic unemployment rates, ensuring communities everywhere benefited from the law.

Furthermore, the law helped more than 8 million people stay in their homes, brought down the cost of health care, and led to the lowest child poverty rates in American history, and helped more than 200,000 child care centers remain open.

As voters head to the polls later this year, Democratic candidates cannot rely on a media focused on horse-race politics and the scandal-of-the-day to remind voters about these accomplishments. We need to actively call attention to the widespread success of game-changing investments like ARPA, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Across the country, these initiatives are fixing bridges, increasing manufacturing jobs, and rebuilding an economy that the last president left in shambles.

And we’re not done. NewDEAL Leaders, a group of 200 forward-thinking, pragmatic state and local elected officials of which I am a part, continues to push forward on issues such as access to broadband, equitable education, and preserving our American commitment to free and fair elections.

The future we see is one of possibilities and an even better quality of life. Our opponents paint a future full of fear and chaos. As Democrats deliver on policy after policy to improve Americans’ daily lives, Republicans are actively working to strip away basic freedoms from residents. From banning books to banning reproductive care, Republicans are obsessed with the government controlling people, rather than providing the tools necessary for families to thrive.

ARPA is a testament to our nation’s resilience in times of crisis, and the possibilities we have before us when we work in good faith on behalf of the American people.



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