What does the Build Back Better Agenda mean for New York, the former epicenter of the pandemic?
Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Bronx on Oct. 22 to speak about the Build Back Better Agenda, an ambitious plan that seeks to create more jobs, cut taxes, and lower costs for working families.
New York City elected officials like Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Kathy Hochul, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sat alongside the borough’s locals inside the Edenwald YMCA on Friday afternoon to listen to a plan outlined by the 49th Vice President of the United States.
With the Bronx and Queens having been some of the hardest hit boroughs in New York City since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—a virus that exacerbated existing racial and economic disparities in addition to being a health crisis—the vice president traveled to New York on Friday afternoon to address how those who have felt the impact firsthand will benefit.
While the American Rescue Plan was a fast-tracked objective aimed to pull communities in these areas out from the darkness of food insecurity and debt, the Build Back Better Agenda seeks to extend much of these policies, such as the Child Tax Credit and Earned-income Tax Credit. Additionally, it is projected to create clean energy jobs, invest in teachers and schools, and provide workforce training. The funding for these initiatives will be garnered from fairer tax codes, which the Biden-Harris administration say would require the wealthiest and largest corporations to pay their fair share in taxes.
Before Vice President Harris emerged on the stage at the YMCA to a roar of applause, Governor Kathy Hochul opened the program by underscoring the sheer significance of the visit.
“Over the last nine months. This city more than any place on the planet was so hard hit by this pandemic. And then think about not just the city, but what happened in places like the Bronx, because we don’t need to tell anybody that black and brown communities are the hardest hit in terms of number of cases, the number of deaths, and our rate of vaccination is not where we want it to be. These are the communities that have suffered the most. And that’s why we’re so honored to welcome the Vice President of the United States of America here, so she could have a conversation about what the Biden-Harris administration has done before, and what they’re going to do next,” Gov. Hochul said.
After 19 months fighting through the virus and economic crisis, those impacted are still struggling to find security. Gov. Hochul emphasized that many have yet to gain a sense of normalcy since some still do not have access to jobs, nor childcare. She called the American Rescue plan a lifeline when businesses were drowning in debt and families fought to make ends meet.
The Vice President herself echoed these sentiments, stating that the Biden-Harris administration will continue to battle through the healthcare crisis by pushing for the Build Back Better Agenda to provide relief for working families.
“President Joe Biden and I see you, and we stand with you,” Vice President Harris said, acknowledging the working families throughout the nation who continue to struggle.
She explained the way in which the Child Tax Credit portion in the Build Back Better Agenda is said to be the single largest contributor of the plan, cutting child poverty nearly in half. Additionally, the Earned-income Tax Credit will also be expanded, helping 17 million low-wage workers.
“We know that the families that have the least were being harmed the most,” Vice President Harris said, adding, “Working class families, middle class families who were struggling before are barely holding it together now.”
Over the past several months, the Build Back Better Agenda has been chopped down from a $3.5 trillion bill to about $1.75 trillion. Elected officials like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are urging her constituents to reach out to their representatives and voice what they would like to see cut and what they want reinforced in the agenda as Democrats sit at the table making adjustments to fit the budget.
“We want to fight for more because it’s very deeply shameful how 60+ percent of the entire country is in agreement with these policies and yet the influence of dark money is preventing the majority of the opinion from happening,” Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said, adding, “We’ve got the work here in the Bronx right now and it’s a deeply impacted community.”
“If you think it is too little and we should walk away, call our office and let us know,” she stressed.
Mayor Bill de Blasio also shared his thoughts on the Build Back Better Agenda, stating that it is the most progressive investment in infrastructure since the 1960s. Despite continued cuts in the bill, he believes the money will still help build better schools, roads, the subways systems, and more.
“We are trying every day to fix schools, build new schools, but we only have so much money. This will revolutionize everything that we do. So, I think the numbers they are talking about, they’re gonna be felt,” Mayor de Blasio said. “This is the most powerful infrastructure package we’ve seen in half a century, even if it’s less than we hoped for. It will make history.”
Although elected officials lauded Harris’ visit, it was not all smooth sailing, however. She faced roadblocks both inside and outside of the YMCA. During her speech, a man rose to his feet and began heckling the vice president.
“What about the families who drowned,” the man shouted, referring to those who lived in basement apartments that were not regulated and perished during the flooding from Hurricane Ida, “The agenda doesn’t protect people!”
Refusing to let up, members of the secret service wrestled the man from the building, but outside was not much better. Dozens of protesters demanding that a path to citizenship be included in the plan waited outside for Harris to leave as they chanted “What do we want? Citizenship.”