Jan Pappas is a family caregiver in Hawaiʻi for her mother-in-law, Florence Yasuda. She and her husband work together to provide in-home care for Florence, as they have for the past five years. The worst thing, she says, is “not getting a full night’s sleep.” For her husband, this is especially stressful because he often has to work seven days a week. Having the ability to pay for respite care would allow both of them to take a break, take a nap, or even, go to work.
Well today, we’re thrilled to share great news for Jan, her husband, and family caregivers across the state of Hawaiʻi. After two years of joining with Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), family caregivers like Jan, healthcare activists, visionary elected officials, and kūpuna (elders, in the native Hawaiʻian language) in Hawaiʻi, together we have made Hawaiʻi the first state ever to invest directly in supporting its family caregivers.
On July 6th, Governor Ige signed the Kupuna Caregiver Assistance Act into law, putting Hawaiʻi at the forefront of addressing the realities of 21st-century families struggling to manage and afford care for their loved ones.
As we wrote back in May, this breakthrough program will provide assistance to family caregivers to be able to pay for respite care, or a home care worker to come and take a loved one to the doctor — so they won’t have to miss work, up to $70 per day. This law is a solid first step in creating the kind of care we need, taking on a recurring challenge in the life of a family caregiver and creating a way to overcome it.
Not only is this investment going to make the daily lives of family caregivers in Hawaiʻi better, it also is an inspiring step forward in addressing the economic penalties of the 44 million family caregivers across the country can incur, especially for women who take on this role. For example, 33% of working female caregivers decrease work hours, 29% pass up job promotions, trainings or assignments, 20% switch from fulltime to part-time employment, 16% quit their jobs, and 13% retire early due to caregiving responsibilities. Having the ability to get help on a daily basis will provide many women (and caregiving men!) with the support they need to build their careers at the same time they can provide the quality of care that family members are so well-equipped to offer.
Significantly, Kupuna Caregivers comes at a time when the full range of public investments in our means of caring for one another are under relentless and devastating attack. Medicaid, the largest single source of support for long-term in-home care in the United States, faces proposed combined cuts of $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years. This victory shows what it can look like when we join together and raise our voices to demand investments in creating the care we need.
This victory also showcases how strong pro-family policies are being created and implemented even as actions in Congress seek to undermine or destroy them. The engines of these innovations are in the states, not in Congress. Kupuna Caregivers joins other new laws that have increased the minimum wage, created paid sick days, and made retail work schedules more family-friendly.
Despite the attacks from Congress, these victories show exactly what can happen if we choose to act on our shared values of compassion, equity, care, and love.
Want to learn more? Tune into a telebriefing with our co-directors, Ai-jen Poo and Sarita Gupta, on Monday morning, July 10 at 8am PDT / 11am EDT!
Hawaiʻi Win Telephone Briefing with Ai-jen Poo and Sarita Gupta
Monday, July 10
8am PDT / 11am EDT
RSVP here to get dial-in information