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Good afternoon. 

Pam Marino here, contemplating the importance of making an investment in the future after the disaster that has been the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this week’s print edition, I took a close look at the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden last month. Most of us probably don’t understand the depth and breadth of how monumental a piece of legislation it is. Sadly, some others may simply dismiss it as a big taxpayer money giveaway. They would be wrong in that assessment.

The ARP is an investment in the future, masquerading as an expenditure. It not only rescues individual residents, businesses and local governments from the destruction brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, it makes a major down payment on future economic success for all of us.

Some have called ARP the “New, New Deal,” harkening back to President Franklin Roosevelt’s plan to restore the nation during the Great Depression. The ARP is foundational, with estimates that it will reduce child poverty by 45 percent, according to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.

That figure is worth repeating: It could reduce child poverty by nearly half. 

The childhood poverty rate in Monterey County in 2019 was 21.6 percent, as reported by the Monterey County Community Action Partnership. That’s over 24,370, ages 18 and under, living in poverty. Roughly 11,000 of them should see their lives improve in the coming year because their parents will have more money to spend on food and a place to live.

The money coming families’ way includes the Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which take effect this tax year and will put money in people’s bank accounts throughout this summer and fall, instead of next year when people file their 2021 taxes. That’s money they can spend right away on necessities and will in turn flow into the local economy. Single filers who make $75,000 or less or couples that make $150,000 or less will get the full amount, which is $3,600 for children under age 6, and $3,000 for children age 18 and younger. 

There’s also immediate nutrition help, with people receiving CalFresh or WIC getting a temporary boost between now and September. In Monterey County, that represents more than $1.5 million in nutrition benefits that will be spent on groceries and fresh produce this summer.

Add on to that the $84 million coming to Monterey County government from ARP to make up for pandemic losses as well as invest in things like infrastructure, plus the $84.3 million coming to local cities. 

Another $86.7 million is coming to schools in the county to help safely reopen and help children make up for “lost learning.”

I asked a few different sources if they had an estimate of what the total economic benefit to Monterey County ARP will be. They all tell me it’s too soon to tell. The plan is like an onion, and so far we’ve only seen the first couple of layers of what’s inside. There will be more grants and disbursements as more layers are peeled back. One such layer was announced on April 5, a $7.3 million grant to Monterey County Health Department Clinic Services.

Some back-of-the-envelope math here for what we do know: The total so far coming into the county in months to come is $263.8 million. That’s money that will translate into jobs and a better future for thousands of children. 

The year 2020 was historic because of a global pandemic. Now, 2021 will be historic because of an investment that will pull the country out of recession, and pay dividends far into the future.

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