U.S. Rep. Jared Golden. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Patricia Rubert-Nason of Fort Kent is a member of the Maine Sierra Club executive committee and leads a local Sierra Club Community Action Team.

For the past year and a half, Maine families have struggled through the pandemic. Many people in our communities have been laid off from their jobs and have found it difficult to keep the lights on and stay afloat. Small businesses shut down or were forced to shed employees — this left too many downtown storefronts boarded up and struggling to attract shoppers. The closing of schools left many parents in a lurch, and too many moms and dads were forced to leave their jobs to help homeschool. Though we will never be the same after such a seismic event, we now have an unique opportunity to rebuild.

This is why Congress must not continue to delay passage of the Build Back Better Act. The holdup on this all-important bill has been excruciating. And it is both surprising and disappointing that Rep. Jared Golden, our own House member, has not been an ardent supporter of a bill that would bring so much relief to Mainers.

The list of investments the Build Back Better Act will make in our communities is long and their impact would be profound. Extending the Child Tax Credit payments would reduce child poverty.  Funding for free, universal early education and affordable child care programs would relieve the crushing burden of child care costs, better prepare our children for school, and make childcare more available in our rural communities. And Medicare coverage for hearing care and lower prescription drug prices would reduce the burden of health care costs on Maine’s many seniors. From youngest to oldest, we would all benefit.

It is true that some of these provisions could be better targeted, and it is laudable that lawmakers want to tackle some of these outstanding issues during the negotiations process. However, we cannot lose sight of the real goal, which is to ensure Maine’s communities are the beneficiaries of this incredible slate of investments.

Of all the historic investments outlined in Build Back Better, perhaps none are as desperately needed as those that empower us to fight against climate change. Climate change threatens all that Mainers hold dear. Warming waters threaten the lobster industry. Rising seas threaten our iconic coastlines. Milder winters threaten our moose, and warmer, dryer summers threaten our woods and waters. Our fossil fuel emissions are a debt that we leave to our children that will be paid in the form of a poorer world. The Build Back Better Act would put us on the path to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, and provide hope for future generations.

The Build Back Better Act would benefit Mainers, starting the moment the bill is passed, and continuing for generations to come. It may not be perfect, but it would be a historic investment in our present — and our future. This is too important an opportunity to let pass. Rep. Golden should vote for the Build Back Better Act. Maine’s future is worth it.