As Arizona struggles to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, we are also plagued with the undeniable effects of the climate crisis. Sizzling, record-breaking temperatures, drought and raging wildfires continue to ravage our beautiful state. As a lifelong resident of Arizona, and with family roots that go back six generations in Pinal County, I worry about what kind of life my grandchildren can have here in the future.

I love living in the Sonoran desert. My most cherished summer tradition is planting portulacas with my grandchildren at their home in Casa Grande. Over the years, I have learned that portulacas are the ideal plant for our long, hot summers. They are drought tolerant and require minimal moisture to grow well and produce vividly colored blooms in a variety of beautiful colors. This year, it occurred to me that I sincerely hope my seven grandchildren are able to demonstrate the resilience and grace displayed by the portulaca’s innate ability to thrive in the scorching summer heat.

But with extreme heat becoming worse every year, it has become clear that we are facing a serious, existential threat. If we are to continue to live here, we need more than just a comprehensive plan to rebuild Arizona’s economy. We need a plan to put people back to work, provide sustainable jobs to help our economy grow and tackle the climate crisis at the same time. This can be accomplished by modernizing our transportation infrastructure and re-orienting our economy toward new industries and new jobs, making sure people get paid decent wages.

Arizonans need Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. And we need it now.

While modern ideas like electric cars and clean energy sources like wind and solar might be tough for many Arizona seniors to embrace with open minds, investment in the health, wealth and prosperity of our grandchildren is a top priority for all of us, regardless of political ideology. Many Arizona seniors like myself were fortunate to pursue our chosen career paths, some of which provided us with good-paying union jobs.

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. For generations, Arizona’s small businesses have given us a sense of community and unique identity that has come to define us, especially in rural areas. Many of our most beloved small businesses were hit so hard by the pandemic that even with the economic relief provided, they were unable to recover. We continue to see a heartbreaking number of permanent closures all across the state. Small businesses need access to capital in order to thrive. Biden’s plan will launch a historic effort to empower small business creation and expansion in underserved communities, by creating a national network of small business incubators and innovation hubs to ensure all Americans have a fair shot at starting and growing their own business.

The bipartisan deal that Sen. Sinema led the negotiations on is very important. There are also important parts of the Build Back Better plan that are not included in the bipartisan deal. There are tax credits for clean energy, new clean electricity standards and investments in electric vehicles — all of which would create millions of good-paying jobs and tackle climate change. Arizona communities, Arizona’s economy and our planet simply cannot wait for bold action. Arizona needs our federal lawmakers to act now and go big by passing a robust investment in the future our grandchildren and generations to come deserve.

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Dora Vasquez is executive director of the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans.

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