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The past year has been a difficult one for our state’s families, businesses and communities. West Virginians are resilient and hard-working, but we still need to work together to emerge from the pandemic.

That’s where government can be most helpful: meeting and solving big challenges together that no one could do alone.

Fortunately, earlier this month Congress passed the American Rescue Plan. This indispensable legislation provides the aid that families, communities and our economy need and builds a bridge to the other side of this crisis. It’s the right response to the moment we are facing as unemployed workers struggle to pay their bills, millions of families fall further behind on rent and risk losing their homes and parents worry about how they will feed their children.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was the critical 50th vote and the only member of West Virginia’s congressional delegation to support the landmark legislation. His leadership has helped deliver funding to our state that will help strengthen vaccine rollout; provide needed resources to public schools and childcare programs; support state and local governments in continuing to provide public services; fund child abuse prevention programs; extend benefits for unemployed workers; support small businesses and more.

These funds will help West Virginia and our localities restore jobs for teachers, firefighters and other critical public employees, prevent further layoffs and cuts to core services like education and health care and provide assistance to people who have been hit hardest by the pandemic and recession.

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The American Rescue Plan also contains aggressive efforts to fight poverty and promote economic security in America with historic expansions of the child tax credit, acknowledging the importance of family-friendly policies as part of our nation’s economic recovery. This action was a big step forward — one we hope to see strengthened as our lawmakers turn their focus to recovery and infrastructure later this year.

Policies that strengthen families are critical infrastructure for our nation. These policies are key to the economic recovery of families and, by extension, our state and nation. Without paid family and medical leave, many parents, family members and caregivers are forced to choose between paying their bills and caring for a loved one. That leaves too many would-be workers on the sidelines or, on the flip side, too many caregivers financially insecure. The pandemic has shown us that sometimes the most important thing we can do is to care for a loved one who is ill or needs our care.

The temporary provisions of the CARES Act and other COVID-19 relief packages that provided workers with paid family medical leave have been critically important. Yet, the need for paid family medical leave does not end with the pandemic.

Without addressing this major barrier to family economic security, our recovery won’t be as strong as it could be. This crisis has shown us where the cracks are in our infrastructure and in our policies. We now have the opportunity to build back better and address these challenges in thoughtful and practical ways.

We look forward to working with Manchin and the rest of West Virginia’s congressional delegation to build toward a recovery that works for all.

Kelly Allen is the executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy.

Jim McKay is the state coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia.

Other groups that co-signed this op-ed include: TEAM for West Virginia Children; National Rural Social Work Caucus; Planned Parenthood South Atlantic; Restorative Actions; the West Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers; West Virginia Citizen Action Education Fund; West Virginia Council of Churches; and West Virginia Foster and Adoptive Kinship Parents Network.

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