President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law, providing billions of dollars to reduce medical and energy costs for millions of Americans.
Among its aims, the far-reaching law seeks to tamp down inflation, lower prescription drug prices, cut home energy costs and tackle climate change.
The administration says the measure benefits the Black community.
“President Biden and Congressional Democrats beat back the special interests to pass this historic legislation that lowers costs for Black Americans and their families, advances environmental justice while building a cleaner future, and grows the economy from the bottom up and the middle out,” a White House statement said.
During his presidential campaign, Biden announced a Plan for Black America that would help end the “entrenched disparities” that prevent Blacks from having an equal opportunity at achieving the American dream. Health care is one of the disparities Biden promised to tackle.
According to a White House fact sheet, IRA lowers prescription costs for seniors and expands access to health insurance by lowering premiums, two factors that have contributed to the racial gap in health care. The administration noted that Black Medicare beneficiaries are about two times more likely than their white counterparts to not fill needed prescriptions due to cost.
At a time when utility bills are skyrocketing, the new legislation promises to help keep costs down. It makes purchasing energy efficient and electric appliances more affordable, enabling families on a tight budget to save money. They can save up to 30% with tax credits on items such as air conditioners and furnaces.
It also tackles the consequences of climate change and pollution, which disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. IRA creates environmental justice block grants to address pollution, funds affordable housing upgrades to reinforce homes against climate impacts, such as flooding, expands a federal forestry program to plant more trees that help cool neighborhoods in underserved communities, and more.
It was an uphill battle for the White House to push this legislation through congress. The bill narrowly passed in the Senate in a party-line vote that required Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking ballot. A much larger spending package, the Build Back Better Act, stalled in the Senate over opposition from conservative Democrats.
“Today, we celebrate the Inflation Reduction Act being signed into law, a historic legislative achievement that will grow our nation’s economy, help working class families, and protect our environment. We thank the Biden Administration as well as House and Senate leadership for ensuring the bill’s swift passage, Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, stated when Biden signed the bill into law.
“We look forward to working with the Administration as it implements this law, the already passed Infrastructure bill, and fights for other parts of the Build Back Better agenda. This includes ensuring we protect the 2.2 million Americans that fall into the Medicaid coverage gap, especially in non-Medicaid expansion states in the South where people of color are disproportionately impacted,” Morial added.
On Aug. 12, the NAACP praised House Democrats for passing the bill in a 220-to-207 vote that received no Republican support. “Today’s historic vote on the Inflation Reduction Act will provide investments and economic benefits needed by families, older people, and in the fight to halt climate change,” a statement said, adding that the organization “has advocated for even broader investments.”
“Today’s vote misses a key opportunity to address the economic stress faced more heavily by Black American,” the statement continued. “Inflation has created additional barriers for first-time buyers struggling to purchase a home. Many Black Americans face high-interest rates compounded by student debt and a high debt-to-income ratio. It also relies heavily on energy credits instead of direct investments for its climate investments.”