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What can the American Jobs Plan do for Florida?

'I would say the country can’t afford not to do it,' U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo says
Posted at 7:43 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 22:32:16-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Federal lawmakers remain divided on President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan to improve roads, bridges and a whole lot more across the nation.

But what exactly does the massive effort do for Floridians, and can the country afford it?

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Rebound South Florida

With the economy bouncing back, so too is Full Press Apparel in Tallahassee. The custom clothing embroiderer is close to where it was before the shutdown.

"People are starting to interact and having events again," said co-owner Danny Shrine. "We're in the people gathering business."

Full Press Apparel owner Danny Shrine
Full Press Apparel owner Danny Shrine says his business is bouncing back after the economic downturn.

While Shrine said his rebound is solid, recovery is a fragile thing.

"For the things that we can control internally, we're very confident about," Shrine said. "But, obviously, we do succumb to the whims of the economy."

It’s that economic uncertainty making some wary of the $2.2 trillion American Jobs Plan.

"I would say the country can't afford not to do it," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who spoke with us recently. "It's kind of like maintenance around your house. The longer you delay, the worse it gets. The more expensive it is to fix."

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo says Florida stands to benefit under President Biden's infrastructure plan.

Raimondo said Florida would receive a portion of the plan's $115 billion for road and bridge repair. Federal officials gave the state a "C" on its infrastructure report card with 408 bridges and over 3,564 miles of highway in poor condition.

A slice of another $50 billion would also flow to Florida to bolster infrastructure against extreme weather.

From 2010 to 2020, the Sunshine State had 22 "extreme weather events," which the Biden administration said equated to more than $100 billion in damages.

Beyond that, the plan broadens with money for better broadband ($100 billion), affordable housing ($200 billion) and eldercare access ($400 billion).

"Many Floridians do not have access to high-quality broadband," Raimondo said. "Big investments in housing. Actually big investments in the care economy, so we can have higher quality home care workers to take care of us and our moms and dads when they age, and all of that will benefit Florida."

Top House Republicans have criticized that sprawl.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, estimating on "Face the Nation" last weekend about 94% of the plan is outside the scope of traditional infrastructure policy.

She also took aim at how Biden wants to pay for it all, bumping corporate tax rates to 28%.

"The National Association of Manufacturers has said that we will probably lose over a million jobs if this is enacted," Cheney said. "You'll see middle-class tax increases. This is a pattern that we watch Democrats use time and time again where they massively increase spending. They massively increase the size and scope of the federal government, and then they come back around and impose middle-class tax increases."

The administration has pushed back, saying middle-income Americans won't be targeted. The commerce secretary challenged Congress to make its own funding suggestions.

"If you have a better idea, then we are all ears," Raimondo said. "What we want to do is get something done."

That was just fine with Shrine, as long as it didn't wreck recovery.

"I think that we can make the standard of living better for more people in our society that will, in turn, make our society more productive for all of us," he said.

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