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April 22, 2020

The Hill: The next stimulus bill will help save our economy — it should transform it, too (Opinion)

Congresswoman Barragan speaking in a congressional hearing


As work begins on a near-term aid package, no resource should be spared to support Americans in the fight against COVID-19. We will also face critical choices on the needed investments to bring tens of millions of people on unemployment back into the workforce.

How will we decide to rebuild our economy? Will we attempt to simply rebuild what we had, an economy with long stagnant wages and a widening wealth gap, powered by fossil fuels that threaten our planet? Or will we use this opportunity to try and build an economy more resilient, safer and more sustainable for the American people?

This is a unique moment and we must make bold choices. I believe we must choose to make a transformational investment in a green economy that not only delivers an economic recovery, but also serves as a down payment on our efforts to tackle the climate and environmental crises we face.

The oil and gas industry is drowning in all-time high debt. Coal is already in steep decline. The fracking and oil shale booms were fueled by cheap debt and years of easy credit, dependent on expensive oil and access to international markets. That bill comes due when those markets return to cheaper energy from countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia, leading to waves of layoffs and bankruptcies.

Rather than trying to force jobs back into the declining fossil fuel economy as the president is doing, a green stimulus can provide the necessary support to transition workers who have lost their jobs into job intensive green industries that won’t go boom and bust based on the whims of the Saudis and Russians. This next stimulus bill – tasked with putting millions of Americans back to work – presents the once-in-a-generation opportunity to do it.

We have to get this right. There are no do overs. We know the importance of listening to our scientists. We must understand the consequences of acting too late. This cannot be a lost decade for our economy or our planet.

Congress must lead.

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Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán represents the 44th District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is a member of on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and serves as the Co-Chair of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force.