President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the investments in the American Jobs Plan at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 7. (Leigh Vogel/Pool/)

Oped by U.S. Representative Bobby Scott, who represents Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District and serves as chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Today marks Earth Day, a day to celebrate the home we all share and to be reminded of our moral responsibility to protect it.

This Earth Day, I am encouraged by the promise of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and I am committed to working to achieve it through legislation. The Jobs Plan is a once-in-a-century investment to create millions of good paying jobs and foster economic growth, while ensuring we protect the planet for ourselves and future generations.

Infrastructure in Hampton Roads and across the country has suffered from a systemic lack of investment. Our roads, bridges and water systems are crumbling. Our electric grid is vulnerable to catastrophic outages. Too many lack access to affordable, high-speed Internet, a safe school building and quality housing. The past year has led to job losses, threatened economic security and demonstrated that we have not done enough to help people find new pathways to good paying jobs. Our nation is falling behind and has, for too long, abdicated its responsibility to reduce emissions. The American Jobs Plan will help address all of these challenges.

Virginia has outsized potential for innovative energy technologies, including offshore wind. As the chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, I will be fighting to ensure the jobs created will be good-paying jobs made for a modern and clean economy.

Even as we reduce emissions, we must deal with the effect of heat trapping pollution already in our atmosphere. From 2010 to 2020, Virginia experienced 40 extreme weather events, costing the commonwealth up to $10 billion. Climate change has increased the frequency and severity of such disasters here and around the world. Biden’s plan calls for $50 billion to put people to work building resilient infrastructure.

As the economy emerges from its deepest decline since the Great Depression, we must invest in our public workforce system, including programs authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, to ensure American Job Centers across the country have the resources they need to help jobseekers and employers participate in the recovery.

That is why I introduced the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act, to provide resources to help employers maintain their workforces and help displaced or underemployed workers quickly re-enter the workforce. I also introduced the bipartisan National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 to expand opportunities and access to Registered Apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships. I was pleased to see these priorities reflected in the proposed $100 billion investment in workforce training programs as part of the president’s American Jobs Plan.

Chesapeake Bay at sunset

I am also proud of the bipartisan effort in Congress that is helping restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and the ongoing collaboration across Hampton Roads to address climate change. Biden’s return to the Paris Agreement and Jobs Plan vision are encouraging signs that the Federal government is back at the table and intends to do its part to support communities on the frontlines, like Hampton Roads, as we care for our unique ecosystems and the broader climate.

Last month, Congress passed and Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan. The Rescue Plan is changing the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and delivering relief for families and small businesses. As people in Hampton Roads know, this is not the time to build things back just as they were before. As the president says, we must “Build Back Better.” The Rescue Plan is an example of how we can tackle hard problems with bold policy.

We must think big again to protect the planet for future generations. Our solutions must match the scale of the challenges we face. The American Jobs Plan is a way that we can meet the moment, create millions of new jobs, and do right by the environment that sustains us.