Build Back Better Arizona Advocates Say State Needs Infrastructure Funding
The U.S. Senate $1 trillion infrastructure bill is focused on roads, bridges and other traditional builds. It does not include the additional funding that Dora Vasquez, executive director of the Arizona Alliance of for Retired Americans, says Arizona needs and is included in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package.
Vasquez said that retirees feel isolated because of COVID-19. Seniors have to master the skills of working through Zoom and living at home even more. That means staying cool in their home environment.
“You know, I grew up with a cooler, you know, where the air just blows up, and there’s a lot of families that still have that and do not have air-conditioning here in Arizona,” she said.
The U.S. Census Bureau's most recent American Housing Survey (2019) finds about 91% of U.S. homes have primary air-conditioning installed. In Phoenix, approximately 97% of residents have home air conditioning. Vasquez says the infrastructure funding needs to get air-conditioning to all Arizona homes and to upgrade the types of air-conditioning in some homes.
Vasquez says Congress needs to pass the $3.5 trillion budget so that Arizona’s seniors can receive support. She said in Arizona’s rural counties, many families have lived in the same homes for generations. And because of climate change, those homes are no longer safe.
“There’s money for grants and for community development so that we can rehab those homes — that we have better infrastructure in our communities to protect our elderly,” she said.
Community block grants would help provide funding for weatherization of rural residents who don’t have in-home air conditioning systems.
Vasquez is also worried about how seniors are going to get around.
“You know, we all have gas vehicles, we’re older, we’re over 65. We’ve been driving the same car for years. How are we going to transition into that electric vehicle? How are we going to get around? So, we hope there are going to be some funds to help seniors with transportation, to build rail, to have more public transit, and to help to build electric vehicle infrastructure," Vasquez said.
The federal funding from Build Back Better would be distributed to Arizona and then to the direct service organizations that distribute to residents. The Build Back Better Act is expected to come up for a vote in both houses before the end of September.