While the $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan recently passed by the U.S. House would provide much needed funding for Pennsylvania roads, bridges, and rural broadband expansion, Congressman Dan Meuser and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are not supportive of the $3.5 trillion spending bill that is now linked to it. That additional package includes higher tax rates for businesses at a time when employers are struggling with workforce shortages and supply chain disruptions. Meuser and the U.S. Chamber are advocating for the two bills to be voted on separately so that the hard infrastructure plan can move forward.
Congressman Meuser spoke about the negotiations regarding the two plans at a breakfast with Chamber members on September 2nd at Monty’s on Bloomsburg University’s Upper Campus. Laura Manion, Manager of the Great Lakes Region with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also participated. Both were confident there are not enough votes in Congress to pass the larger spending plan.
Meuser stated that he “didn’t disagree with all of” the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed earlier this year under the Biden administration, as it provided additional funding for business assistance programs. Many mistakes were made at both the federal and state levels during the early days of the pandemic, according to Meuser, including mandating that businesses close. He advocated for an “open but safe” plan and pointed out to the Wolf administration the disruptions to supply chains for critical industries as a result of the shutdown.
To foster economic recovery, Meuser believes the U.S. needs to hold China’s “feet to the fire” regarding trade agreements to minimize disruptions to supply chains and help maintain U.S. competitiveness. He also discussed the need to be more self sufficient in energy and semiconductor production. Meuser is a sponsor of a bill being referred to as Chips USA that would support the production of semiconductors within the United States. Manion joined Meuser in advocating for the promotion of skilled trades as viable career paths and the importance of exposing middle and high school students to options.
With the $300 per week federal unemployment bonus payments ending on September 3rd, Meuser believes this will help to ease the workforce crisis. He pointed out that Pennsylvania’s 6.6% unemployment rate for July was significantly higher than the national rate of 5.4%, which takes into account states that ended the bonus payments previously. He also noted the importance of supporting child care to support working families and help develop the future workforce.
The Columbia Montour Chamber will continue discussions at the federal and state levels on policies to support a more robust workforce.