The Senate's nearly $1 trillion national infrastructure plan is an opportunity to bring jobs to Latinos across the country and bring communities "back better", according to New York Representative Adriano Espaillat.
On Wednesday night, the Senate voted to begin work and formal consideration of the plan after weeks of false starts once the White House and a bipartisan group of senators agreed on the major provisions of the deal.
According to White House projections, the investments will add - on average - about 2 million jobs each year over the next 10 years. The bill includes $550 billion in new spending for public work projects.
Among the legislators to praise the deal was Representative Adriano Espaillat, a Dominican-American who represents New York's 13th district, which comprises upper Manhattan and parts of the West Bronx. Espaillat is also the first formerly undocumented immigrant to ever serve in Congress.
Speaking to LPO on Capitol Hill, Espaillat said that the "infrastructure bill is an opportunity to bring jobs" to Latinos and invest in communities in the wake of Covid-19, which disproportionally impacted Latinos.
"[It is also] a way to build back better. Smarter. In a way that will promote a healthier lifestyle in those neighborhoods, that will prevent us from falling into those vicious cycles of high levels of diabetes, respiratory, and cardiovascular problems that manifested themselves in a deadly way during the pandemic," he said. "The jobs creation piece is clearly very helpful, and I hope that resonates."
In a statement, however, UnidosUS President and CEO Janet MurguĂa, cautioned that the organization - the largest Latino non-profit advocacy organization in the US - would not endorse the deal unless it offered significant benefits for the Latino community and others.
"For the bill to earn our endorsement it must prioritize new jobs for women, Latinos and others experiencing the highest rates of unemployment and be moved in tandem with human infrastructure," MurguĂa said.
"The pandemic made clear that human infrastructure - health care, child care, housing, education and other systems and workers - are just as indispensable to job creation, families health and well-being and the country's future," she added.
The eventual outcome of the infrastructure bill in the Senate will ultimately set the stage for a the Biden administration's much more far-reaching $3.5 trillion spending package, which includes provisions for child care, tax breaks and health care.
Republicans strongly oppose the initiative, which would require a simple majority.
MurguĂa, for her part, called on Congress to pass the wider spending package.
"In the end, the budget reconciliation package must increase access to health coverage, nutrition programs and housing, further reduce poverty among all children, including Latino children and those with ITIN numbers [taxpayer identification numbers available to those who cannot get social security numbers] and help us better educate all our nation's students," she said.
Additionally, MurguĂa said that "to rebuild the nation we need a stable workforce and a sufficient supply of workers to fill new jobs."
"Latinos, immigrants and the five million undocumented essential workers who helped carry us through the worst of the pandemic will us help us build the road to recovery," she added.
Espaillat told LPO that he believes that job creation and support for businesses in Latino communities will ultimately benefit the Democrats.
"The Democratic Party is the actual base of the Latino vote," he said. "We have an agenda that's progressive and that addresses their aspirations of moving forward as families."
"I think that if we continue to show how we helped businesses during the pandemic, and we got hit disproportionally hard by the pandemic. If we continue to show how we help families, and if we continue to show how we're helping children - the Latino community is disproportionally young - I think we should be able to do really well," he said. "Those communities got a lot of help, but we still need to invest in the recovery of those neighborhoods."
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