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Opinion | It’s time to build back better for Wisconsin working families

Opinion | It’s time to build back better for Wisconsin working families

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., right, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, left, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., update reporters on Democratic efforts to pass President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda, last week in Washington.

Bridget has worked in the restaurant industry for 44 years, and when she took time off of work a while back to care for her son when he was born, she did not have the privilege of continuing to be paid.

Bridget, like so many other Wisconsin working families, does not have paid family and medical leave, which often makes things difficult.

“It would be a lot easier if we just had paid medical leave, just because it’s not just mothers anymore, it’s fathers. Everybody has to have a hand in raising a child,” Bridget said. “Or if something happens to a father, and (the family) has to take care of them, and who’s going to be the breadwinner at that point?”

Our organizers at Family Friendly Wisconsin listen to working people and families just like Bridget every day to learn about what they need to better care for themselves and their families, and what we have learned is that situations like Bridget’s are all too common.

Working families in Wisconsin need access to affordable prescription drugs and paid family and medical leave. They also need access to reliable, affordable and quality childcare and eldercare, and at Family Friendly Wisconsin, we have focused our advocacy efforts on these four areas.

About a year ago, President Joe Biden introduced the Build Back Better agenda to uplift American working families and transform our country into a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous environment for all Americans. The plan will lower costs, lower taxes and create jobs, all while not costing those who make less than $400,000 a dime. To fund the plan, the Trump tax handouts to the wealthiest Americans and big corporations will be repealed to invest in our economic growth and give working and middle-class families a historic tax cut.

I understand how necessary the Build Back Better agenda is for families throughout the Badger State, and the historic tax cut is only the beginning of how working families will be empowered economically.

The Build Back Better agenda lowers childcare costs by ensuring middle-class families do not contribute more than 7% of their income to send their children, under 5 years old, to quality childcare, and working families in need would pay nothing for childcare.

In Wisconsin, a family with two children would save an average of $7,391 a year on childcare. The agenda will also create 130,386 new childcare pre-K jobs in Wisconsin over 10 years, and plans to raise the wages of these critical workers.

The availability of quality, affordable elder care would be increased as well, as the Build Back Better agenda plans to create 24,401 home care jobs across the state.

Further, the Build Back Better agenda guarantees 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave (which Wisconsin currently guarantees none of), putting over $873 million in the pockets of Wisconsinites each year. The agenda also enables 343,960 more Wisconsinites to take a leave of absence to care for their loved ones, or receive care themselves. This includes 181,670 women, of which are 95,930 women with low incomes.

The cost of prescription drugs would also decrease as the Build Back Better agenda would allow for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, lessening the control pharmaceutical companies have over our medications. In 2019 alone, prescription drugs cost Wisconsinites over $1.3 billion, and in 2017, 22% of Wisconsinites stopped taking medications due to cost.

It’s not surprising that Biden’s agenda is widely popular with Wisconsin voters. Across party lines, 67% of Wisconsin voters support Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.

The same bipartisan support needs to be reflected in Washington. While Sen. Tammy Baldwin has pledged her support for the Build Back Better agenda, Sen. Ron Johnson continues to put the needs of Wisconsin working families aside, as he did when he voted against the American Rescue Plan.

Urge Johnson to prioritize the needs of Wisconsin’s working families over the ultra-rich and the country’s wealthiest corporations by lowering the costs for care and delivering on historic tax cuts for middle-class families so we can rebuild the working class.

You can pledge your support for Biden’s Build Back Better agenda here.

Brita Olsen is the state director of Family Friendly Wisconsin.

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