Dear Fellow Marylanders,
Beach vacations, backyard BBQs, long weekends and fireworks. Independence Day weekend is made for celebrations. The last three years have been rough, as high costs fueled by the pandemic and other global challenges kept many Americans close to home. After a period of economic uncertainty, the country is finally rebounding from the coronavirus, and ready to hit the road traveling.
This summer, according to the U.S. Travel Association, “air travel demand is expected to be the strongest since pre-pandemic—and potentially the strongest ever.” The trade group says that “over a quarter of Americans plan to increase the amount they are spending on leisure travel in the next three months (26%) up from 19% in Q1.” The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimated 4.17 million people will be flying this July 4th weekend with another 3.3 million traveling by bus, cruise or train. And a massive 43.2 million Americans will travel by car, setting a new all-time holiday weekend record that should surpass 2022 and pre-pandemic numbers.
Thankfully, all of those cars won’t be trying to get over the Bay Bridge, but there are clear signs that fireworks aren’t the only thing booming this July 4th, so is the economy.
Among the many positive signs: in the last 2 ½ years, we have added more than 13 million jobs. The pace of recovery after the pandemic has been faster than anyone expected, with our national unemployment rate now at 3.7 percent – a 50-year low. In Maryland, our unemployment rate is an incredible 2.4 percent. Unemployment for African Americans, Hispanic Americans and people with disabilities are at record lows and for women, unemployment is at a 70-year low. Marylanders and Americans nationwide are working.
As chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I’m proud to report that there have been more than 10.5 million new small businesses applications in 2021 and 2022 – the strongest two years ever recorded. And this small business boom has been fueled by people of color, especially women.
Some of the best news: inflation, which ramped up considerably during the pandemic, taking a bite out of paychecks and crippling our economy, has dropped for 11 straight months and is now half of what it was last year. Yes, half. Inflation-adjusted wages also are up 3.2 percent and what economists call “real personal disposable income” increased 8.5 percent last quarter – last year it was only 2.5 percent.
We still have more work to do, but the American economy is moving in the right direction.
How we got to this point was no accident. Democrats in Congress, working with President Joe Biden – and Republicans, when they were willing – passed legislation that is bringing smart investments to communities in Maryland and across every state. The fundamental goals have been (1) taking action to spur job creation and empower workers, (2) foster growth by promoting competition and lowering costs, and (3) reduce day-to-day expenses for working families. Along the way, we’ve enacted policies to reduce the federal deficit, as well.
President Biden described the plan like this: “Forty years of handing out excessive tax cuts, the big corporations had been a bust. We hollowed out the middle class in America. We blew up the deficit significantly. We shipped jobs overseas because of cheaper labor. We stripped the dignity and pride and hope of one community after another all across America … So we’re changing that. We’re replacing their trickle-down theory with what the economists are calling Bidenomics. It’s working. Bidenomics is about building an economy from the middle out and the bottom up. When that occurs, the middle class does well, the poor have a chance, and the wealthy still do very, very well.”
First, the American Rescue Plan invested urgent resources into vaccines, testing, contact tracing, public health, and related programs to contain COVID-19 and finally get the pandemic under control. It tackled the public health crisis as well as the economic and social devastation left in its wake.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known widely as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is a package that I worked hard with many of my colleagues to develop. It represents a generational commitment to upgrading and modernizing our nation’s infrastructure to create jobs, expand opportunities, strengthen our competitiveness, address climate change, enhance safety and improve lives.
Earlier this week, Team Maryland announced $267 million to deliver essential broadband connectivity across our state. Also announced were two major competitive grants for transportation projects in Maryland—improvements to the Capital Trails Network in the Washington area and the Mondawmin Station in Baltimore. In the last year alone, Maryland has received $2.4 billion in federal investments to maintain and repair bridges, roads, airports, and other transportation infrastructure. There has been more than $307 million for clean water, including removing dangerous lead pipes. To learn more about these transformational projects, please check out invest.gov for details.
Passage of the CHIPS and Science Act also has made America more competitive by incentivizing US-based manufacturing in semiconductors, clean energy and other crucial technology, and fostering innovation and scientific discovery. Thus far, private sector investments prompted by the CHIPS and Science Act has reached $490 billion nationwide, which translates into thousands of quality jobs.
Finally, the Inflation Reduction Act has been a crucial boost for Maryland families and our national economy. Senate Democrats passed this legislative package that has made it easier for American families to afford health insurance coverage and prescription drugs, while lowering energy costs and boosting job creation in the growing clean energy sector.
These policies have given families a much-needed boost to their budgets so they can finally take that vacation or enjoy that barbeque. Whether you travel or not this holiday weekend, we will come together to celebrate the strength of our great nation, the perseverance of our democracy, and the work that remains to ensure our economic system works for all and not just the select few.
Thank you for your time. Happy Independence Day. Enjoy yourself and stay safe.