Congress needs to bring economic relief for Americans

Image of the outside of the US Capitol building.

Congress needs to bring economic relief for Americans

Image of the outside of the US Capitol building.

Congress needs to bring economic relief for Americans

As rising costs add new pressures to families, we all want everyone — Black, Brown, white, native, and newcomer — to have what they need to overcome these challenges. We want to build on the momentum of the economic recovery from the pandemic.

Emergency relief during the lowest point of the pandemic helped families survive the crisis. But even before COVID and inflation, basics like health care and child care were too expensive for working people. Now, with the price of everything from gas to groceries rising, we need our leaders to act so we don’t lose the ground we’ve gained.

Partisan gridlock can stop even the most commonsense ideas from getting through Congress, but lawmakers have a process known as “reconciliation” to bypass this logjam. By using reconciliation, Congress can pass an economic package that lowers costs for prescriptions and health insurance, expands and lowers the cost of child care, and helps parents with the costs of raising kids. What’s more, they can pay for it by rolling back tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations and negotiating prescription drug savings.

This might be Congress’s last and best opportunity to deliver for Oregonians. Our representatives in Congress must take the lead and get the job done now.

It’s no secret that President Biden and congressional leaders have had trouble striking a deal on legislation to help families make ends meet. But the need for them to overcome their differences is as dire as ever. Innovative supports that helped all of us during the pandemic, like the improved Child Tax Credit, have expired. Others, like increased subsidies that helped millions afford health care during the worst public health crisis of our lifetime, will expire soon.

All this adds up to a big hit for workers and families — particularly those scrapping by with low pay and those from communities that have been held back because of historic and ongoing discrimination — just when inflation is skyrocketing.

A commonsense economic package should include the following three policies:

  • Ensuring people have health coverage and lowering health care costs by making permanent the expanded ACA premium tax credits that have already helped millions of people buy affordable health insurance, and capping the cost of insulin at $35.
  • Addressing the massive shortage of child care for families, making it easier for parents to work.
  • Ensuring the lowest-income families can get the Child Tax Credit and restoring monthly payments, which would help families afford basics like food, rent, and fuel at a time of rising costs.

Congress can pay for these foundational things by rolling back provisions in the 2017 tax cuts that further rigged our tax code. It’s time to ensure the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. Congress should also allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, saving us money and making it easier for seniors to afford life-saving medicine.

More health care and cheaper prescription drugs. More child care. Help for families facing rising costs. These are the foundations Oregon families need to thrive.

News reports indicate that there’s also an effort in Congress to pass an energy and climate bill aimed at lowering energy costs, creating jobs, and addressing the harm from climate change. We support these admirable goals, but a climate and energy bill is not a replacement for an economic package that helps families afford the things they need. We need both. The budget reconciliation process allows Congress to tackle our climate challenges and provide the targeted help workers and families need at the same time. That’s the right path forward.

We came together during COVID to take care of each other. This spirit of solidarity helped us avoid even worse outcomes. Now we need to pull together again to maintain the ground we’ve recovered and build for the future.

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Written by staff at the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

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