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Here’s how Biden’s Build Back Better plan could help Rhode Island’s care economy, climate change, and workforce

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 11/23/2021 Alexa Gagosz
Along a commercial street in Central Falls, R.I. © David Goldman Along a commercial street in Central Falls, R.I.

PROVIDENCE — The House on Friday passed the heart of President Biden’s domestic policy plan, which approved $2 trillion in investments over the next decade to help fight climate change, make health care more accessible, and give a boost to social services.

The bill’s narrow passage in the House also represents the uphill battle the package will face in the Senate, particularly from Republicans and some conservative Democrats, such as Senator Joe Manchin.

In Rhode Island, where the housing crisis is reaching a tipping point and where staffing shortages are spreading across the health care industry, the Rhode Island delegation and Governor Dan McKee said the Build Back Better framework will make “transformative investments” in the care economy.

“This is our chance. If we just try to solve the pandemic and move on, I think we are making a terrible mistake. This Build Back Better act will allow us to recover from the pandemic, but do it in a way that builds an economy that is sustainable and enduring because everyone will be able to participate,” said Representative David Cicilline Tuesday morning inside the SEIU offices on Federal Hill. “We’re fighting hard, and we’re not contemplating the possibility that Build Back Better isn’t going to come.”

Will the Build Back Better Act raise my taxes?

Rhode Islanders who are making less than $400,000 a year will not see their taxes go up. Instead, Cicilline said the plan ensures that corporations and the highest earners in America “pay their share.” Large corporations will receive a 15 percent minimum tax and there will be a 1 percent surcharge on corporate stock buybacks. Cicilline said the president is committed to ensuring that large corporations will no longer be rewarded for shifting jobs overseas with a 15 percent global minimum tax and a penalty rate for foreign corporations based in non-compliant countries.

I make more than $400,000. How much will my taxes be raised?

Rhode Islanders will receive a 5 percent tax on income more than $10 million and an additional 3 percent tax on income above $25 million. Cicilline said the plan will also close the Medicare Self-Employment Tax loophole by strengthening the Net Investment Income tax for those who make more than $400,000.

How could the Build Back Better plan help lower health care costs for Rhode Islanders?

  • Those with diabetes will no longer pay more than $35 a month for insulin.
  • Pharmaceutical companies will not be able to hike up costs that are above inflation rates.
  • Medicare will be able to negotiate drug costs for seniors.
  • Lowers premiums in the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. Individuals should see a reduction in their premiums of more than $800 per year. This could help the 6,000 uninsured Rhode Islanders gain coverage and help 7,700 Rhode Islanders “save hundreds” per year on premiums, according to Representative Jim Langevin.

How could Build Back Better help lower child and family care costs?

  • It will ensure that those earning under 2.5 times the state median income (so about $258,533 for a family of four) will pay “no more than 7 percent” of their income on childcare, which Cicilline’s office said will help “the families of 9 in 10 young children” in Rhode Island.
  • Expand free schooling with universal pre-school for all 3 and 4 year olds. This will impact more than 15,000 children in the Ocean State.
  • Establishes a universal, paid family and medical leave program, which will provide four weeks of paid leave.
  • 173,000 eligible Rhode Island children will be impacted by the plan giving more than 35 million families across the US a tax cut by extending the Biden Child Tax Credit for one year, and making the refundability of the credit permanent.

How could Build Back Better help with Rhode Island’s shrinking housing stock?

Video: Biden’s Build Back Better plan will ‘ease inflationary pressure’: Rep. Matt Cartwright (FOX News)

The plan will provide $151 billion to build new, affordable rental and single-family homes, expand assistance programs for down payments and rent, and repair public housing. Cicilline said this will help the more than 73,000 rent burdened Rhode Islanders, but it’s unclear how many new units will be build under the plan.

How could Build Back Better help battle climate change?

  • Across the US, it will invest $555 billion over a decade in clean energy and climate investments. It’s unclear how much of that funding will go to Rhode Island alone.
  • Creates a Civilian Climate Corps to help prepare workers for “good-paying” (possibly union) jobs to address the climate crisis. It’s unclear how many of these workers will be hired in Rhode Island.
  • Is said to ensure that clean energy technology (such as wind turbine blades, electric cars, and solar panels) will be built in the US, which will “create hundreds of thousands of good paying, union jobs,” said Cicilline.

Why it’s important: From 2010 to 2020, Rhode Island had 11 extreme weather events, which cost the state $2 billion in damage. The White House has said previously that the Build Back Better Agenda will help the US set its course to meet its climate targets, including a 50 to 52 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. Doing so, the president said, will create “good-paying union jobs, grow domestic industries, and advance environmental justice.”

How could Build Back Better help the workforce?

  • Cicilline said the plan will “strengthen enforcement of our nation’s labor,” employment, and civil rights laws to protect workers’ rights to organize.
  • The Department of Labor will increase annual spending on workforce development by 50 percent.
  • Increase Pell Grant awards by $550 and expand financial aid access to students with DACA, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and DED (Deferred Enforced Departure) status. This could help more than 22,000 Rhode Island students who rely on these grants.
  • The state and local tax (SALT) Cap Deduction will go from $10,000 to $80,000 through 2030.

Why it’s important: For residents, the average cost of a two-year degree in Rhode Island is $4,982 and $14,100 per year for a four-year degree at state schools.

How could Build Back Better help seniors in Rhode Island?

  • The plan is said to provide $150 billion to expand access to Home and Community Based Services and care for millions of older adults and people with disabilities.
  • Provide $1.2 billion for OAA, which is the Older Americans Act, programs to help those seniors who have been disproportionately hurt by the pandemic, according to Cicilline’s office.

How could Build Back Better help parents of children in Rhode Island?

  • About 47,600 Rhode Islanders will be eligible for the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers for one year. Across the US, this will help 17 million low-wage workers.
  • An additional 23,000 Rhode Island students will be eligible for free school meals through an expansion of the program.

Why it’s important: Approximately 7 percent of children in Rhode Island live in food insecure households. According to a newly published report by the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, more than 18 percent of households lack consistent access to nutritious food.


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