In the nine months since taking office, my staff and I have seen unprecedented levels of trauma and pain in our district. We hear from constituents on a daily basis who are desperate for help. People call for assistance in burying their loved ones, recovering their belongings after their home flooded, or receiving their stimulus checks.
Violence remains persistent, and thousands have yet to return to work. And our senior citizens and caregivers remain marginalized in a system that leaves them behind.
I carry these calls for help — and the names of the lives lost — with me in the halls of Congress.
We’re facing an unprecedented challenge, but also a once-in-a-century opportunity to meet the scale of this moment to truly build back better. This is the time to heal our nation. This is our “New Deal” moment.
The Biden administration put forth an agenda that will include all of us in the recovery. The president’s Build Back Better Act ensures that we do not leave women, children, seniors and people with disabilities behind. It makes essential and long-overdue investments in areas that are usually neglected by our government, like child care, education, housing, and our environment.
Passing the president’s Build Back Better Act in full is the essential next step for our district. That’s why we cannot allow it to get sidelined in favor of a much smaller, bipartisan infrastructure bill that doesn’t address our country’s climate, gender and equity needs.
I’m advocating for the Build Back Better Act because it has funding that would directly benefit our district, including:
• $2.5 billion nationwide in funds for violence prevention. The 47th Precinct in the Bronx experienced 11 shootings in just 28 days, and recent tragic events in Mount Vernon and Yonkers further underscore the need for holistic programs that support youth and address root causes.
Federal grants for local violence prevention would allow communities like ours to invest in violence interruption, workforce development, and school-based support for at-risk youth.
• $82 billion nationwide for public school infrastructure. In New Rochelle, the damage from Hurricane Ida was so severe that a high school had to switch back to remote learning. That’s why I have been fighting for green school infrastructure, so that our schools can be resilient against increasingly common storms like Ida, and so that our students have the healthy classroom environments they need to safely return to school.
• $450 billion nationwide for universal child care and universal pre-K. So many families in our district struggle to find and afford quality child care. Westchester is the third-most expensive county in the nation to raise a family, and on average, child care for infants and toddlers in New York costs more than a family’s rent.
Our district is majority Black and brown, and making child care universal would be transformative for children and families.
• Desperately needed improvements to the Supplemental Security Income program. More than 8 million people with disabilities and older Americans who rely on SSI — including more than 20,000 of my constituents — and they should not be forced to live in poverty. That is why I have sponsored the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act to expand SSI and guarantee a good quality of life for all seniors and people with disabilities.
• $8.5 billion in community development funds for community centers, after-school facilities, senior centers, and child care facilities to ensure the northern Bronx and southern Westchester have the funding needed for climate-resilient repairs.
• $322 billion for affordable housing investments and New York City Housing Authority repairs to help end homelessness in our district and support housing stability. These funds would create 35,000 new deeply affordable and supportive homes across New York state. They also would be used to repair roofs, lead issues and pipes in NYCHA properties.
Nearly 9,000 of my constituents live in public housing, and this funding will go directly to much-needed repairs in their units and development.
• Allowing the federal government to lower prescription drug prices so that everyone in our district — regardless of insurance plan — can access life-saving medication. Given recent insurance lapses for thousands in my district, I know how essential this provision is.
Further, Build Back Better aims to lower the Medicare age to 60 and provide dental, hearing and optical care for everyone who receives Medicare. This is huge!
The bipartisan infrastructure framework isn’t going anywhere. We will pass it — and I will vote for it — after we have secured the Build Back Better Act. Both the president and I ran to uplift the most vulnerable Americans, and passing both of these bills does just that.
This is a historic opportunity to pass transformative legislation that American families and children need and deserve. As we nurture and uplift the majority of Americans, we make our communities safer and better educated, while rescuing our democracy.
That’s why myself and the majority of my colleagues in Congress are insisting we do this right, and leave no one behind in the process. Let us build a new America.
The author is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 16th Congressional District, covering parts of the northern Bronx and Westchester County. A version of this Point of View originally appeared in The Journal News.