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Fighting COVID and climate crises with cash payments

Vox Pop

The Covid-19 crisis continues to dominate headlines. This is understandable because it impacts the health, safety, and economies of our families, friends, and communities. These are the same reasons 60% of Americans are concerned about another unfolding crisis, that of our changing climate.

From extreme heat and storms to loss of winter tourism revenue from warming winters, the climate crisis is impacting the health, safety, and economies of the places we live. With climate change we are at a point similar to early March of the pandemic. The impacts are becoming noticeable, accelerating, and aggressive action is needed to flatten the curve.

When Covid-19 is under control and our lawmakers are able to turn their attention to climate change again, it should remember one lesson learned from the pandemic: direct cash payments are a simple, transparent, and fair way to support Americans when economic winds are shifting.

Over the next 10 years, America needs to move from a fossil fuel-based economy to a clean energy economy. By planning to give cash payments to Americans, we can ensure the health of our economy while making a gentle transition to a clean energy future. Here’s how. Congress could put a steadily rising price on carbon pollution, driving our economy away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy sources, and it could rebate that money as an equal cash payment, or “dividend,” to all Americans each month. When dividends are given to everyone on a regular basis, regardless of their income status, low- and middle-income Americans benefi t dramatically. Cash dividends are transparent and easy to track, unlike tax offsets.

There is a bill before Congress called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act that follows this exact approach. It currently has 83 bipartisan co-sponsors. Local governments have gone on record, passing resolutions in support of this bill (or bill principles) including Sawyer, Ashland, and Bayfield Counties, the cities of Ashland, Bayfield, Wausau, Rice Lake and Washburn, and the Red Cliff and Bad River Tribal Councils.

Call Congressman Tiffany (202-225-3365) and Senators Johnson (202-224-5323) and Baldwin (202-224-5653) to let them know you also support a carbon dividends plan as a way to stimulate our economy and rein in the climate crisis.

It’s clear that money in the hands of Americans helps keep our economy running. That’s why Congress and the President used this tool early on in the current health crisis. When we’ve dealt with COVID-19, let’s use that same tool to combat climate change.

— Dan Herscher, Birchwood