American Rescue Plan hits home in Tucson

COVID-19 relief

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A recent study shows 22% of the residents who live in incorporated Tucson live in poverty, much higher than the national average.

Which means it’s likely good news for Tucson that the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus, which will be signed by President Joe Biden on Friday, is being hailed as a poverty relief plan.

Those people who live at or near the poverty level are the targets of the plan, which provides relief to the unemployed, increases money for transit, opening schools, money to prevent evictions, money for child care and a $1,400 check to everyone in the household, among other things.

“We have not seen such big investment from the federal government in the City of Tucson in our history,” said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero. “It’s that big.”

Tucson lost 34,000 jobs at the beginning of the pandemic and most have never come back, but this stimulus may be enough to bring them back according to University of Arizona economist George Hammond.

“There really hasn’t been any job growth in Tucson since last June,” he said. “So this shot in the arm, these additional funds available for families and individuals to spend will help drive the economy back to pre-pandemic levels.”

There have been arguments that the relief package is too big for an economy that is on the way to recovery, but Hammond believes it’s what’s needed to shorten the time it takes to recover.

“It seems to me that the risks of doing too little and winding up with a recovery that would take three or four years, as opposed to one or two,” he said.

Tucson will initially get about $139.6 million over two years. The Treasury Department has not spelled out how the money can be spend but it’s expected it will be targeted for city services like police and fire, which have been hard hit during the downturn.

There will be other, more targeted funds for other purposes like preventing evictions, making restaurants whole and increasing access to broadband.

It also gives tax credits to families with children, one of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic. Caring for children has forced many women out of the work force. The tax incentives may be enough to bring them back.

“So that investment in our families, in our children, in our schools is going to really change the economy of our city,” Mayor Romero said.

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