On August 16 of this year, President Joe Biden (D) signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law, a landmark bill that “will lower costs for families, combat the climate crisis, reduce the deficit, and finally ask the largest corporations to pay their fair share.” By signing this bill, President Biden is aiming to build an economy that works for working families in the unincorporated US territories – including those who are affected by climate change.
In recent years, thousands of families living in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have been at the forefront of climate change. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria brought the islands of Puerto Rico more rain in a single day than it typically receives in three months. According to a recent report, warmer oceans are causing this extreme weather – and the effects are extremely far-reaching. American Samoans struggle with the choice of either leaving their homes or remaining to fight the increasingly frequent—and deadly—realities of climate change. These include human health risks, stronger cyclones, coastal flooding, and more. The coral reefs of the Northern Mariana Islands, which normally bring in millions of annual dollars for the local economy, are in danger of being destroyed. The Inflation Reduction Act seeks to correct this. According to the White House, “The legislation will bring down energy costs for families and create thousands of good jobs, all while reducing climate pollution and ensuring that we have a clean, secure future energy supply.” Specifically, the Inflation Reduction Act will make it more affordable for families to purchase energy-efficient, electric appliances. The bill will create economic opportunities and jobs as it spurs solar project development, and expands clean energy tax credits for businesses that use renewable energy, among other things.
Building from this, the Inflation Reduction Act is working to improve the lives of Latino communities across the unincorporated US territories. A recent report revealed that “Among adults 65 and older, Latino Medicare beneficiaries were roughly 1.5 times as likely as White beneficiaries to have trouble affording medications, and about 2 times as likely to not fill needed prescriptions due to cost.” With 3.12 million Latinos living in Puerto Rico alone, the Inflation Reduction Act serves these expansive communities across the unincorporated territories. Specifically, this piece of legislation seeks to reduce healthcare costs (including prescription drug costs) and expand health insurance coverage for Latino families across America.
A staggering 51% of Guamanians live in poverty. In the Northern Mariana Islands, 52% of the population lives below the poverty line. This problem is common across all US unincorporated territories, and it’s often exacerbated by an unfair tax system. The Inflation Reduction Act aims to raise revenue by ensuring that high-income people not only pay the taxes they already owe but continue to pay their fair share of taxes.
The Inflation Reduction Act aims to improve the lives of millions of families across the US territories. This critical bill is a promise from the federal government that thousands of Puerto Ricans, Samoans, Guamanians, and more will no longer have to decide whether to flee to the mainland due to the increasingly deadly weather. It’s a promise that these individuals won’t need to worry about whether they can afford essential medication. It’s a promise that, for all Americans, change is coming.