Schakowsky Statement on the Passage of the Build Back Better Act

November 19, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip, a senior member of the House Budget Committee, and a Co-Chair of the House Democratic Task Force on Aging and Families, released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5376, President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, by a vote of 220-213: 

“Today, I proudly voted for and helped pass President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, a transformational bill that makes long overdue investments in the American people. The name – Build Back Better – is meaningful: we must build back better from before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the richest country in the world, seniors should not have to walk away from pharmacy counters because they cannot afford their lifesaving medications. Black, Hispanic, and other women of color should not have to pour their lives and souls into caregiving, only to be paid an unlivable wage. No person should be pushed out of the workforce because a loved one falls ill and they have no access to paid family and medical leave. No person should have to drink toxic water from lead pipes or be forced into homelessness due to lack of affordable housing.  

"As sociologist Jessica Calarco said, 'Other countries have a robust social safety net; the United States has women.' The Build Back Better Act does just that – it builds America back and upwards to where we should be in the world and eases the economic and social burdens that women have shouldered for generations.  

"For too long, Americans have paid three to four times more for prescription drugs than people in any other country. All while Big Pharma has admitted to making a profit even where other governments have negotiated prescription drug prices. The Build Back Better Act finally gives Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices, caps seniors’ out of pocket prescription costs at $2,000 per year, and caps insulin at $35 per month. The bill also invests in the physical infrastructure of community health centers, who have been on the frontlines for over 50 years, providing care in underserved communities. 

"In Illinois, at least 19,000 seniors and people with disabilities are on waiting lists for essential home care. We face a caregiver workforce shortage, with the majority of paid caregivers being Black, Latina, and Asian immigrant women who do not even have access to a sick day. The Build Back Better Act puts a down payment on growing the care economy, providing $150 billion for Medicaid home and community-based services and creating good-paying union jobs. The bill also contains $1.2 billion to invest in programs targeted to seniors under the Older Americans Act, including nutrition and long-term care support services. These generational investments will help family caregivers return to work without fearing for the health and safety of their aging loved ones and ensure that low-income and vulnerable seniors do not go hungry in the richest country in the world. 

"As we look to the future, we must also address the dismal maternal and infant mortality crisis. In Illinois, Black women are six to seven times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts. The Build Back Better Act includes the “MOMnibus,” to invest in training and recruiting more maternal and perinatal nurses and doulas. The bill includes funding for Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education programs, like the one at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, to fix the pediatrician workforce shortage. It also includes funding for maternal mental health programs and training for health professionals to identify and address risks of environment and climate change to mothers and babies.  

"The Build Back Better Act makes historic investments in environmental justice and clean energy. It invests $3 billion in community-led projects to address disproportionate environmental and public health harms related to pollution and climate change. It also includes billions of dollars to incentivize the use of clean energy – helping the United States to achieve its goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Since transportation is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases, the legislation invests over $25 billion in green transportation including transit, electric vehicles, and zero-emission technologies.  

"The Build Back Better Act also recognizes that safe drinking water is a human right. Many of our communities are facing a lead crisis and Illinois is no exception. Illinois has more than 680,000 lead service lines – the most of any state in the nation. The Build Back Better Act provides $10 billion in funding to fix this toxic problem and protect our drinking water. 

"Housing costs continue to rise at record rates nationwide. This bill helps those who need it the most by investing $35 billion in affordable housing and $24 billion in rental assistance. This is the largest one-time expansion of rental assistance since 1974 and will help more than 260,000 families over the next eight years. It also provides over $7 billion to address homelessness and $65 billion to repair and improve public housing. 

"This historic bill also makes huge investments in our nation’s children and students by extending the landmark Biden Child Tax Credit and providing universal free pre-K for all three and four year olds. In Illinois, that means expanding free pre-K to more than 250,000 additional three and four year olds per year and increasing the quality of preschool for children who are already enrolled. It also makes college more accessible by increasing the maximum Pell Grant award by $550. The bill also makes important investments to combat child hunger by expanding eligibility for free school meals and providing Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) benefits to low-income children.   

"Finally, while I am disappointed that the House version of the Build Back Better Act does not include a pathway to citizenship, it provides lasting and meaningful protections for our immigrant communities. It includes protection from deportation and renewable work permits for an estimated 7 million people, providing stability and peace of mind to millions of families. We must remember, this is just the beginning. We will not stop fighting until we achieve a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.  

"Build Back Better is about building up and empowering the backbone of our country – our women, our workers, and our immigrant communities. It’s about investing in Americans and their futures.  I am proud to join in that effort and look forward to advancing the Build Back Better Act into law."