You might have thought that the pandemic would have made the nation rethink its horrible treatment of its care workers. After all, the terrible jobs mean they spread Covid through the nursing homes since most of them work in two or three of them. The loss of our elderly population seems to have made….zero difference for Americans. Ai-Jen Poo, who has long been the nation’s leading advocate for these workers, tears her hair out over the continued indifference to these workers, which in truth means indifference toward our own elders, not to mention our health-challenged friends and families and our own babies.
A 2020 report by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving found that more than one in five Americans were caregivers and almost one in four of these was caring for more than one person. A more recent study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that a vast majority of Americans want to age at home and want the government to act to help them do so.
But we can hardly sustain the existing home care work force with workers’ current median annual income just over $18,000 per year. What will we do when the aging baby boomer generation — roughly 73 million people — needs more support and services.
There are more than 12 million working parents with children younger than 6 years old. Without access to paid leave, these parents must find affordable child care in order to work and provide for their families. The American Rescue Plan Act included funding to stabilize child care programs for low-income families and expanded the child tax credit for 2021, but what will happen when that funding runs out?
Lawmakers must now decide how to support the care economy — including administrative and regulatory reforms as well as legislation. We should see investments in care reflected in appropriations and at the heart of the next budget reconciliation. Many voters want representatives who refuse to devalue women and families and who want caregivers to have the freedom to choose whether they leave the work force rather than be forced out of it.
Look, I’m sure once the Liz Bruenig express gets to the Republican National Committee, the Party of Life (TM) will be all over these family values!