U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici says she is not convinced that payment of extra unemployment benefits has led to shortages of workers in service and caregiving businesses.
The Democrat from Beaverton responded to a comment from someone who complained about a shortage of caregivers at assisted-living centers during a telephone town hall Saturday, May 15. She acknowledged there are positions going unfilled in a range of occupations, including child care and elder care, as the economy recovers from lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic.
"But not everyone is in the same situation." she said. "Some of them are worried about child care. Some of them are worried about COVID-19," referring to workers who may not have obtained vaccinations yet and are reluctant to return to jobs requiring interaction with others.
Bonamici also said some laid-off workers are considering or undergoing more training to enable them to take higher-paying jobs in other fields.
"We need to make sure that people have the skills to get these good jobs," Bonamici, who sits on the House Education and Labor Committee, said.
President Joe Biden's follow-up proposals to his $1.9 trillion pandemic recovery plan, now pending in Congress, would boost spending on both child care and elder care. His American Jobs Plan also would spend money on worker training for emerging jobs, such as those in development of carbon-free energy.
"I understand that we need to support workers as we transition to a clean energy economy," Bonamici said.
Bonamici said that going back to her grandparents in the 1920s — her grandparents emigrated from Italy — her parents and her own family, each generation has seen improvements in their quality of life.
"Right now there is a serious concern that that's not the case" with the next generation, she said. "I worry whether we can, unless we address these issues and create opportunities that extend to all."
Before the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, Bonamici conducted in-person town hall meetings twice a year in each of the five counties in the 1st District of northwest Oregon — and usually two meetings each round in Washington County, the most populous in the district. She has switched to telephone town hall meetings, where anyone can register in advance and dial in at a specified time.
Bonamici also sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and the Selection Committee on the Climate Crisis, which in June 2020 issued a report with more than 500 pages of recommendations on what the United States should do to attain a net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The report did stop short of recommending a tax on carbon emissions.
"I am committed to enact the bold policies we need to address carbon pollution," she said.
As a co-chair of the Congressional Oceans Caucus with Rep. Don Young, a Republican from Alaska, Bonamici has sponsored two Save Our Seas Acts in 2018 and 2020 — both signed by then-President Donald Trump — to deal with ocean pollution and plastic wastes. Another bill she is sponsoring to promote coastal research is pending a vote in the House.
"Climate change is not somewhere out in the distant future. It is here now. Science shows that. I'm going to advance policies that help us address it," she said.
"Now during the economic crisis, this is an opportunity. Some people will talk about the cost. But there is also a tremendous cost to not acting — when we look at the rise in sea level, the increase in extreme weather events, and the money we spend and the lives that could be lost if we do not take action."
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