From the American Rescue Plan to the Inflation Reduction Act and everything in between, the Biden administration and Democratic leaders in Congress have passed an impressive array of bills that aim to improve America’s economy and infrastructure, invest in physical and mental health care, and combat climate change.
It’s been more than 18 months since President Joe Biden was inaugurated, and despite a media environment that has feasted upon the challenges he’s faced so far in his term, his administration has racked up an impressive list of legislative accomplishments that provide tangible help to North Carolina’s communities, families, and individuals.
Here are five new laws the Democratic-led House and Senate have passed under Biden that delivers for North Carolina:
1. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022
The most recent entry on this list might be the most impactful. The Inflation Reduction Act is a generational investment that a wide array of experts agree will lower healthcare and prescription drug costs, tackle climate change, and reduce inflation for North Carolinians.
“This historic legislation makes crucial investments in energy, health care, and in shoring up the nation’s tax system. These investments will fight inflation and lower costs for American families,” a group of 126 leading economists wrote in a letter to congressional leadership before the law was passed.
An independent analysis from Moody’s Analytics found that the bill would reduce inflation over the long run. “As named, the Inflation Reduction Act will lean against inflation over the next decade,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s.
Every single Democrat in the US House and Senate voted for the Inflation Reduction Act, while every Republican politician voted against it. That includes North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, a candidate for one of the state’s crucial seats in the U.S. Senate.
Here’s what the bill does for North Carolina families and their communities:
- helps an estimated 135,000 North Carolinians keep their health insurance by extending Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies through 2025 and keeps the cost of premiums low for another 502,000 North Carolina residents who get coverage through the ACA.
- saves North Carolina seniors money on prescription drugs, caps their out-of-pocket expenses on prescription drugs to $2,000 per year, and implements a $35 monthly cap on insulin for Medicare recipients.
- incentivizes industry to transition to renewable energies and provides direct rebates to North Carolinians who adopt clean-energy stoves, heaters, dryers, and other appliances.
- creates up to 9 million jobs across the country, makes the US less reliant on foreign oil, and dramatically reduces emissions that have caused an increase in extreme weather events.
The bill also invests tens of billions of dollars in rural America while only raising taxes on large corporations.
2. The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022
What the Inflation Reduction Act does for American energy, the second entry on this list does for technology and manufacturing.
You might have noticed that products like cars, cell phones, refrigerators, and gaming consoles were harder to come by during the pandemic, as supply chain issues affected the availability of these products in the US and sent prices surging, particularly for vehicles.
These shortages occurred because these items—as well as many other products—rely on microchips that are overwhelmingly manufactured in Taiwan.
The CHIPS and Science Act, signed into law last week, aims to change that by dramatically increasing domestic microchip manufacturing, a move that aims to strengthen supply chains, lower costs for consumers, create jobs, and make the US more economically independent.
The law allocates $39 billion in incentives for companies to construct and expand manufacturing facilities in the US and $13.2 billion for workforce development programs and research and development efforts.
“Our economy relies on semiconductor chips, which are used in everything from cell phones to cars to advancing national security measures. By increasing the domestic production of these chips, we will onshore a critical strategic capability, reduce dependence on Chinese and other foreign manufacturers, and, in turn, lower costs for Americans,” said North Carolina Congresswoman Kathy Manning. “I look forward to seeing the CHIPS Act deliver for North Carolinians.”
The law already appears to be paying dividends, as the company Micron announced last week that it planned to invest $40 billion over the next eight years to manufacture chips in the US, an investment supported by grants and credits from the CHIPS and Science Act. The company said it expects to create up to 40,000 jobs in the US, including 5,000 highly paid and operational roles.
The law also invests approximately $170 billion in the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and other federal agencies that are focused on technology, innovation, and manufacturing in an effort to make America more competitive with China and other countries.
3. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022
Biden’s third big accomplishment is a solemn one, because it highlights two distinct but occasionally intersecting problems that the US faces: mass shootings and our mental health crisis.
In the aftermath of May’s devastating mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Congress finally passed legislation that aimed to address the scourge of gun violence.
While the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act doesn’t go as far as most gun safety activists would like, it enhances background checks for prospective gun buyers under the age of 21 and requires law enforcement authorities to have time to examine juvenile records, including mental health records beginning at age 16.
The law also incentivizes states to pass “red flag” laws that allow officials to temporarily take away guns from people deemed in court to be a threat to themselves or others, makes it more difficult for domestic abusers to buy guns, and funds community-based violence interruption programs.
More notable, however, are the bill’s investments in America’s mental health system, a critical effort at a time when rates of anxiety and depression are on the rise, especially among young Americans.
At this point, most Americans likely know someone who is or has experienced some form of mental illness and struggled to get adequate care. Thankfully, over the past few years, the federal government has begun prioritizing mental illness in a serious way for the first time in decades.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act invests roughly $10 billion for mental health, the largest-ever investment in America’s mental healthcare system.
Most of that funding will go towards expanding certified community behavioral health clinics in every state. These clinics, which already exist in a handful of states as part of a Medicaid pilot program, are required to treat patients for mental health and/or substance use issues, regardless of their insurance coverage. These clinics also provide 24/7 crisis response, medication-assisted treatment, and have shown promise in treating patients.
The bill also includes $1 billion to increase the number of mental health counselors in schools, provide additional funding for pediatric mental health care, distribute grants for mental and behavioral health organizations and community groups, and establish additional funding for the new 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Mental health advocates praised the bill’s mental health funding, but they also warned against conflating gun violence with mental illness, as some Republican lawmakers have done.
“People with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, and pointing to mental illness as the cause of gun violence perpetuates discrimination and stigma that discourages people from seeking help,” said Daniel H. Gillison Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We must be cautious in how we discuss and address the causes of gun violence. We should be making mental health investments because it is the right thing to do – not because it will have a tangible impact on mass shootings.”
4. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021
Better known as the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” this proposal marked a key win for Biden, as it represented the largest investment in America’s infrastructure in decades.
The bill—which most Republicans voted against—will deliver tangible results for North Carolinians.
Here’s just some of what the law does:
- provides funding to repair and upgrade North Carolina’s roads and bridges to make them safer, representing the largest investment in repairing our nation’s bridges in more than half a century.
- funds the removal of lead pipes and invests $55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water for millions of Americans at home, work, and school.
- invests billions to clean up polluted Superfund sites, reclaim abandoned mines, and cap abandoned oil and gas wells in order to protect the health of communities and reduce environmental harms.
- expands access to high-speed internet for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians that currently lack access.
- makes high-speed internet more affordable for approximately 3.2 million North Carolina residents.
- allocates funding to expand, improve, and modernize public transit systems.
- funds repairs and upgrades to North Carolina’s airports.
- strengthens America’s power grid by investing more than $65 billion to upgrade the nation’s power infrastructure.
- invests in a significant build-out of electric vehicle chargers nationwide .
You may not benefit from all of the law’s measures, but if you drive a car, ride a bus or train, drink water, use the internet, travel by airplane, or rely on a utility company for your electricity, chances are good that you’ll directly benefit from Biden’s infrastructure law in the coming years.
5. The American Rescue Plan of 2021
Remember those $1,400 checks we got in the spring of 2021? Yeah? Those were thanks to Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a goliath of a bill that provided both short-term help for Americans and long-term investments in sectors that support communities.
Here’s just some of what the bill has done:
- gave most North Carolinians $1,400 checks
- extended unemployment benefits at a time when the pandemic was still a crisis and unemployment rates were higher
- provided North Carolina parents with monthly payments of $250 to $300 per child through the end of 2021 and made other tax credits more generous
- provided funding for public safety and crime reduction efforts
- funded affordable housing development across North Carolina
- provided much-needed help to small businesses
- allowed North Carolina communities to upgrade their water and sewer infrastructure
- funded job training programs
- invested in North Carolina’s healthcare centers, mental health treatment, and public health workforce
- expanded food assistance programs to keep North Carolina families out of hunger
- expanded child care assistance and invested in schools and childcare programs
This list is just a fraction of what the bill has done. Chances are, if you google American Rescue Plan, you’re going to find a news story virtually every single day about a new project or initiative funded by Biden’s law.
6. Bonus Accomplishments
To zoom out, these five laws represent just a fraction of Biden’s accomplishments. He also signed the PACT Act into law, which expands healthcare benefits for veterans who’ve suffered medical issues due to exposure to toxic burn pits while they served.
Biden also oversaw the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which aims to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The landmark law needs to be renewed every five years and had previously lapsed in 2019.
The president also signed a bill that reforms the postal service in order to modernize the organization and save the USPS nearly $50 billion over the next decade.
Biden has also overseen the creation of more than 9 million jobs and record-low unemployment. In fact, all jobs lost during the pandemic have since been recovered.
Finally, the president has also helped unite Americans and US allies to provide support to Ukraine amid Russia’s brutal invasion of the country, nominated the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, and appointed more federal judges at this point in his presidency than any president since John F. Kennedy.
In contrast, Republicans have spent the past 18 months targeting Americans’ freedoms and rights, including the right to abortion and the right to vote without fear that a politician will overrule you.
Voters will decide in November whether to give Biden another two years of a House and Senate majority, or whether they want divided government. No matter what, though, one thing is clear: the Biden administration’s record is robust and has already delivered more in 18 months than most modern-day presidents do in a full term.