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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an American Rescue Plan virtual briefing in the South Court Auditorium at the White House on March 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law this afternoon. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an American Rescue Plan virtual briefing in the South Court Auditorium at the White House on March 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law this afternoon. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The On The Ground Organizing Behind the American Rescue Plan

Our Recovery Squad is just getting started on pushing for an economic recovery that doesn’t leave anyone behind.

Tammy Thomas Miles

Something big just happened. The Biden administration and new Congress proved that when they want to, they can go big on bold policies to help the communities who need it most. 

The American Rescue Plan includes some truly historical investments in low-income communities.The $40 billion for child care, expanded child tax credit and EITC, boosted unemployment insurance, tens of billions in emergency housing assistance and billions in state and local aid are all necessary investments for us to recover from this pandemic directed to those who need it most. 

But they were far from guaranteed. We got this far thanks to our community partner groups that set the mandate for this new administration.

We are celebrating the passage of this landmark bill, but we are also already looking ahead to ensuring that coming infrastructure improvements are made in the communities that have suffered from long term disinvestment, with a focus on women and Black and Brown communities.

Our Recovery Squad at Community Change came together across issue areas to push back when some members of Congress—who make more than a decent wage and are painfully out of touch with the struggles of the people they are supposed to represent—argued that states didn’t need that much money or that boosted unemployment should only last through July. We shared our stories on how badly we needed stimulus payments, delivered past due invoices for direct cash payments and revealed the harsh reality of mothers having to choose between child care and their careers. 

In the end, we can celebrate down payments on many of our long term priorities to build a more caring economy, but we have a lot further to go. Most regretful is the millions of undocumented workers and taxpaying ITIN filers who are deemed “essential,” but apparently not eligible for much of this relief. And still more workers were denied a raise to a living wage or a guaranteed income.

Those of us who fought for the big wins in this bill aren’t throwing in the towel. When the CARES Act left out our immigrant families, grassroots organizations came together to provide mutual aid so we could survive. If there’s one thing this pandemic brought home, it’s that our liberation is tied up in one anothers and politics of exclusion are what put us in such a bad way to begin with.

If we accept economic policy that only works for some of us and call it a day, we will always be leaving some of our power on the table. For example, we need to fight for a $15 minimum wage, but anyone who has been housing insecure knows it’s hard to hold down or even get that job if you don’t have a safe place to sleep at night. So we demand both a living wage and affordable housing for all. Child care for all is necessary, but if those who care for our children don’t have the means to take care of their own families, we will never build a system that strengthens economic opportunities for all of our families. So we demand investments in affordable child care infrastructure that also values, pays and protects care workers. When the folks who put the food on the shelves of our grocery stores don’t have access to medical care and time off when they’re sick, we all suffer. So we demand affordable health care and paid leave for everyone. And we demand that no one is denied any of these basic human needs because of their immigration status. 

In the next phase of this recovery fight, insisting on tying these issues together is a deliberate strategic shift that recognizes the way elites have divided us from each other in the past and refuses to stand for it this time. It's a fundamental American value to leave no one behind, and it’s on all of us to live up to it. 

Our multi-racial coalition of 30 partners nationwide is dedicated not just to getting immediate relief to all of our communities, but to ensuring that we have an economic foundation that helps all of our communities thrive, especially as many of us were struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic. 

So we are celebrating the passage of this landmark bill, but we are also already looking ahead to ensuring that coming infrastructure improvements are made in the communities that have suffered from long term disinvestment, with a focus on women and Black and Brown communities. And most importantly, to flexing our power as one unit that transcends silos and fights for these human needs together.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Tammy Thomas Miles

Tammy Thomas Miles is a senior organizer at Community Change, a national social justice organization that builds power of low-income people, especially people of color, to fight for a society where everyone can thrive.

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