One week ago, President Joe Biden announced his new economic recovery package that includes $400 billion (yes, with a B!) to bolster home and community care for seniors and people with disabilities. The administration has taken a huge step towards investing in the care infrastructure we all need and deserve, by supporting those who need care to live and age with dignity while improving the quality of jobs for those who provide this essential work. This marks a turning point in our collective fight to build a more caring economy and more caring future for us all.
Says our Co-Founder and Executive Director, Ai-jen Poo, “The Biden-Harris Administration’s pledge to invest in care will lift up our nation’s family caregivers and home care workers, who are the heroes who got our families through the pandemic. Like our physical infrastructure — roads, bridges, green energy — our care infrastructure needs permanent investment to ensure our communities can thrive. This investment in home and community-based services will mean individuals and families who have been waiting far too long for the services they need will finally have access to quality care in their homes and communities. Furthermore, it means care workers who work incredibly hard to care for the people who raised us and our loved ones with disabilities, will have economic security, dignity, and family-supporting jobs.”
This $400 billion investment in home-and-community-based services (HCBS) will create millions of new jobs, raise wages and improve working conditions, and expand services and shorten waitlists. As of 2018, more than 819,000 people were on Medicare waitlists, unable to access the care they need to live and thrive. The inclusion of HCBS in this first phase of recovery also prioritizes the caregivers and workers who got our families through the pandemic. And it values the lives of those who suffered the most throughout it.
We’ve been hearing some folks say that care infrastructure isn’t “real” infrastructure. But one of the reasons infrastructure has traditionally been defined so narrowly is that women, and women of color, have been excluded from defining the terms. Infrastructure means the basic organizational structures and systems that support a functioning society and economy. By defining infrastructure as only roads and bridges and electricity, we’re leaving out supports for huge swathes of the population who make our country run, which will hurt the economy in the long-run.
Care has always been essential to the strength of our families and our economy, and is as fundamental economic infrastructure as it gets. It sustains what we do, but also serves as the foundation for economic opportunity, growth, and racial and gender equity and advancement. And 3 in 4 American voters agree by supporting the care infrastructure provisions in the American Rescue Plan.
Our Care Fellow, John Adeniran, says “The provision of care is a combination of time, support, ability, and access and if any of those components are missing, family caregivers and their carees take a hit. Not only does this investment in Home & Community-Based Services mean that caregivers, like myself, will have more access to supportive services, but it also means that we will have better access to dictate the terms of care for our loved ones, with the assurance of dignity each step of the way.”
This is a huge, historic win for all of us in the Caring Majority. Thanks to all the work we and our partners have done – the lobby visits, town halls, calls, petitions, stories – vital services could be expanded to the people who need it the most, while meaningfully improving the lives of care workers. We deserve a care infrastructure that works for everyone: for workers, for family caregivers, for seniors, and for people with disabilities – and one that centers, uplifts and values Black and brown women.
So what’s next? Congress must now follow President Biden’s bold and caring lead to make this law. We have our foot through the door, but now it’s up to us to push Congress to make this transformative commitment a reality for our families. We must keep pressure on our elected representatives and continue to make our voices and stories heard to ensure that the full $400 billion that Biden promised is included in the final legislation.
Join us on April 10, 2021 at 12 PM ET for the Care Can’t Wait Summit where caregivers, care workers, people with disabilities, and older adults from across the country will come together in our power to celebrate how far we’ve come, and begin the work to get where we need.
Check out more coverage of the plan here:
Biden jobs plan seeks $400 billion to expand caretaking services as U.S. faces surge in aging population, Jeff Stein, The Washington Post.
Biden’s ‘Transformative’ Plan Redefines Infrastructure to Include Caregiving. John Nichols, The Nation.
Opinion: Biden is facing a Roosevelt moment, Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Washington Post.