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U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin deserves our thanks for the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that will send approximately $6 billion to West Virginia over the next five years for infrastructure improvement.

This is a much-needed economic boost to our communities that have suffered from a systemic lack of investment, illustrated clearly by the “D” grade West Virginia’s infrastructure system received by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in December 2020.

The infrastructure bill also outlined plans to improve roads and bridges, investments in the clean energy sector, establish reliable high-speed internet, upgrade our airports and deliver clean drinking water to all our citizens. All of this is paid for by having the ultra-wealthy and billionaires pay their fair share in taxes.

The potential for job growth is enormous, and our state is lucky to have Senator Manchin’s leadership to ensure that we have a seat at the table. However, his fight for West Virginia must continue by passing the second half of the president’s proposed infrastructure package.

While the passage of the infrastructure bill provides a necessary lift for the residents of West Virginia, it is only a first step if the ultimate objective is to revitalize the economic situation for many future generations of West Virginians. So, now that the bipartisan infrastructure framework has been signed into law, we must turn our immediate attention to the legislative package known as the Build Back Better Act to complete the one-two punch.

The Build Back Better framework is a transformative investment in the future of our country. The bill, as proposed, will help West Virginia’s workers and families, including saving American families an average of $500 dollars per year in energy costs, reducing the cost of installing rooftop solar for a home by 30% and directing funds to rural communities.

In addition, the Build Back Better framework will mean new good-paying clean energy jobs that will help workers, like the members of the IBEW. Solar workers are currently the fastest growing part of our membership. Just think what we could do if electricians were needed to build and maintain a reliable next-generation electric grid.

A bill like this will make life better for West Virginia residents across the state by creating a generation of good-paying union jobs and supplementing the coal and natural gas industries that have always been our livelihood.

A bill like this will provide West Virginias a lifeline to a new era of prosperity and growth. Build Back Better makes investments in clean energy that will generate jobs in solar energy, wind energy, and electric vehicle charging station manufacturing. Clean energy jobs are the future, and both bills are needed to stimulate job growth in renewable sectors and put West Virginians in a position to take advantage of the opportunities in these growing markets.

There is really no debate; these two bills are a package deal for our nation. Together they offer a path to a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity that our state can’t afford to miss. It is imperative to our current and future workers that Sen. Joe Manchin delivers on Build Back Better, just as he did for the first part of the package.

Shane Wolfe is business manager for IBEW Local 317 in Huntington.

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