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Build Back Better Arizona Advocates Say State Needs Infrastructure Funding

The U.S. Senate $1 trillion infrastructure bill is focused on roads, bridges and other traditional builds. It does not include the additional funding that Dora Vasquez, executive director of the Arizona Alliance of for Retired Americans, says Arizona needs and is included in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package. 

Vasquez said that retirees feel isolated because of COVID-19. Seniors have to master the skills of working through Zoom and living at home even more. That means staying cool in their home environment. 

“You know, I grew up with a cooler, you know, where the air just blows up, and there’s a lot of families that still have that and do not have air-conditioning here in Arizona,” she said.

The U.S. Census Bureau's most recent  American Housing Survey (2019) finds about 91% of U.S. homes have primary air-conditioning installed. In Phoenix, approximately 97% of residents have home air conditioning. Vasquez says the infrastructure funding needs to get air-conditioning to all Arizona homes and to upgrade the types of air-conditioning in some homes. 

Vasquez says Congress needs to pass the $3.5 trillion budget so that Arizona’s seniors can receive support. She said in Arizona’s rural counties, many families have lived in the same homes for generations. And because of climate change, those homes are no longer safe. 

“There’s money for grants and for community development so that we can rehab those homes — that we have better infrastructure in our communities to protect our elderly,” she said.

Community block grants would help provide funding for weatherization of rural residents who don’t have in-home air conditioning systems. 

Vasquez is also worried about how seniors are going to get around.

“You know, we all have gas vehicles, we’re older, we’re over 65. We’ve been driving the same car for years. How are we going to transition into that electric vehicle? How are we going to get around? So, we hope there are going to be some funds to help seniors with transportation, to build rail, to have more public transit, and to help to build electric vehicle infrastructure," Vasquez said. 

The federal funding from Build Back Better would be distributed to Arizona and then to the direct service organizations that distribute to residents. The Build Back Better Act is expected to come up for a vote in both houses before the end of September.

Heather van Blokland moved to Phoenix in March 2016 to join KJZZ as a host/producer, after working as an on-air host/producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, covering middays, weekends and most everything in between. van Blokland previously worked as a Morning Edition host and reporter at Florida NPR affiliate WUFT-FM, covering business and agriculture beats. She was also the local producer and editor for StoryCorps’ story booth.Like many in public media, van Blokland brings a diverse background to her daily duties. Her first career was in the private sector as a financial analyst manager in commercial and investment banking. She also used to teach canoeing and kayaking on the local rivers in North Central Florida. Her education includes a master’s in mass communication from the University of Florida, a bachelor’s in finance, marketing and multinational business from Florida State University, and a diploma in acting for film and television from Vancouver Film School in Vancouver, British Columbia. She wrote and produced a film, later submitted to the Vancouver International Film Festival.In her free time, van Blokland enjoys exploring the outdoors, everything from a hike on South Mountain to Vancouver's Butchart Gardens to a ride through Swaziland’s Mkhaya Game Reserve. Her travels have included South Africa, Swaziland, western Canada, Australia, the British Isles, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay and summers on the outskirts of London. She is also a certified open-water diver, and still looking to apply that skill in Phoenix.Half Southern and half English, van Blokland enjoys using phrases that surprise people. She does not enjoy steak and kidney pie or Monty Python. You can send your ardent disagreements with this statement to her directly at [email protected].