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Pres. Biden tours N.O. water plant after a stop in Lake Charles as part of his “Getting America Back on Track Tour”

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 10:00 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Air Force One brought President Joe Biden to Louisiana as part of his “Getting American Back on Track” Tour.

First, he stopped in Lake Charles, an area devastated by powerful 2020 hurricanes. Then he flew to New Orleans to tour the Sewerage and Water Board’s Carrollton Water Plant. The S&WB has an aged system with some equipment a hundred years old and has infrastructure needs.

“We got to build for what is needed now and I promise you that we’re going to do that, so we’re better prepared to withstand storms that are becoming more severe and more frequent,” said Biden. The American Jobs Plan which is Biden’s infrastructure package has a $2 trillion price tag. Of that, $115 billion is for the repair of roads and bridges.

“Across the country, we have failed, we have failed to properly invest infrastructure for half a century,” said Biden.

There are billions for public transportation, resilient infrastructure, broadband, housing, caregiving and child care as well as $111 billion to ensure drinking water is safe. According to the White House, the American Jobs Plan includes a $111 billion investment for drinking water projects.

Biden spent a little over an hour touring the Sewerage and Water Board’s water plant.

S&WB Executive Director Ghassan Korban talked to Biden about problems with the old system.

“If we come back here, while things look very calm on the surface, the system is antiquated. it has served its life, and each day we get closer to failure,” said Korban.

Biden said, “The system could fail.”

Korban replied, “The whole system could fail.

Biden believes Congress should work with him to make the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan reality.

“One of the things that this crisis, in terms of the health crisis that COVID has shown us is that we have to build back better in a whole series of ways. It’s about building a strong foundation for the American people,” said Biden.

Under the AFP higher education funding for students would benefit. The plan would provide at least two years of free community college to all students.

Delgado Community College of New Orleans issued the following statement:

“It’s a promising proposal and we, like all community colleges, are considering its potential impact. Helping students access meaningful, affordable educational opportunity is always our goal.”

Also, the plan will increase the maximum Pell Grant awards by approximately $1,400 to support 108,000 Louisiana students.

The federal Pell Grants are for undergraduate students from low-income households.

David Page is Vice President of Enrollment Management at Dillard University, a historically black school in New Orleans.

“We have 75 % Pell Grant population, so we’re one of the campuses that really, truly benefit from the federal Pell Grant,” said Page.

He said the grant makes higher education attainable for many students. “Those funds provide opportunities for students to attend college and in some cases not worry too much about going into student loan debt because on some of our campuses the Pell Grant value depending on what it is can cover if the most, most of the tuition charges,” Page stated.

Also, the AFP would create a national paid family and medical leave program to ensure workers receive partial wage replacement from the government. It would allow individuals to take time off to bond with a new child, care for sick relatives, and find safety from sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence.

Keith Liederman is CEO of Kingsley House in New Orleans which works with children and families.

“Nearly half of our workforce doesn’t even receive one day of paid sick leave never mind family and medical leave, so there’s a lot that we need to improve the family-friendly workforce that we need,” Liederman stated.

Liederman says the pandemic has made it clear paid leave is a necessity.

“Those who earn the most are five times more likely to receive paid leave from their employer, well, the exact opposite happens for 95 % of lowest-wage workers who are mostly women and women of color,” said Liederman.

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