Today’s political climate undoubtedly turns people off, spurred on even further by the recent tragedy that took place in the U.S. Capitol building. We believe the business community holds the answers to the issues that will move our country forward. The issues we promote have vast bipartisan support, and bipartisanship is what we need now more than ever.
Our organizations represent a diverse membership with a variety of political beliefs, but they all agree that focusing on solving our nation’s challenges is the priority. We expect our elected officials to passionately argue their perspective on issues, with civility and respect, of course. But when that debate is done, there needs to be solutions that address the challenges our communities face.
We know that means we won’t always get 100 percent of what we want, but that’s OK. We’d rather they focus on being part of the solution, finding the common ground issues that will grow Iowa, help us prepare for a more promising future, and bring trust back to America’s political system. Rather than criticize the partisanship of Washington, we want to offer bipartisan solutions to some of our nation’s most pressing issues.
We applaud when Congress finds those common ground solutions as they did in December with the reinstatement of Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals with near-future release dates. This opens the door for those individuals and provides businesses with an even larger pool of skilled workers when workforce remains the number one challenge businesses face. Yet there are more issues we can cross the aisle to find solutions.
Infrastructure investment has long been on Washington’s “to-do” list, and now there is a window to get something done. Legislation that promotes high-quality, fiscally responsible, environmentally responsible and sustainable infrastructure systems will create jobs, provide safe roads and bridges, reliable broadband, and accessible airports and transit systems. Those assets are vital to our nation’s recovery, growth and competitiveness.
Immigration reform is long overdue and will bring measurable population growth to a state like Iowa that has seen below national average population growth over the last 100 years. The first step is for Congress to provide permanent status for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. A recent study shows 74 percent of Americans support giving Dreamers permanent status. The approximately 4,300 Dreamers in Iowa pay $19 million in federal, state and local taxes, and hold technical degrees in the skills that power our region in a time when those skills are needed more than ever in our recovery.
Child care is another area that has significant bipartisan support and is critical to getting our country back to work. Before COVID-19, Iowa’s parents were facing a shortage of affordable, high-quality child care options. Since March, many child care providers in Linn and Johnson alone have permanently closed. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on our child care industry and assistance is needed to keep providers open safely so they can support parents in the months ahead.
If there were ever a time to put aside partisan politics, recovering from a global pandemic is it. Our businesses have seen many challenges over the past 10 months. Business leaders have made tough choices and compromises to keep their businesses afloat and employees on the payroll. We encourage federal policymakers to look to the business community to help develop bipartisan solutions on the critical issues our communities face. By focusing on our common interests, not political divisions, we can address our current needs and help build a more sustainable, equitable future for our nation and Iowa. We are committed to leading by example.
Kim Casko is president and CEO of the Iowa City Business Partnership. Kate Moreland is president of the Iowa City Area Development Group. Doug Neumann is executive director of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.