WASHINGTON, April 15 — House Democratic Caucus issued the following news release:
The House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging and Families (TFAF) highlighted the crucial investments that President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will make in our nation’s caregiving infrastructure. On the call, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), TFAF Co-Chairs Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Conor Lamb (D-PA), and Vice Chairs Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) characterized a broken long-term care system in desperate need of assistance so that seniors and people with disabilities can receive quality treatment they deserve and caregivers can be paid a living wage.
CAUCUS CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: Our nation is truly in a crisis of long-term care, as anyone who has had to help care for a loved one knows all too well. Our caregivers are in a crisis as well, which the pandemic has laid bare. They are predominantly women and women of color who too often struggle to make ends meet while caring for our nation’s elders and those with disabilities.
The House Democratic Caucus stands squarely behind President Joe Biden’s proposed $400 billion infrastructure investment in the caring economy. In fact, many of the leaders who are part of the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging and Families have led the effort in putting forth ideas that have made it into President Biden’s proposals.
CO-CHAIR SCHAKOWSKY: I am here to tell you that care infrastructure is national infrastructure. President Biden’s proposal will invest $400 billion in home and community based services and expand Medicare’s Money Follows the Person proposal, a program that helps keep seniors with their loved ones in their homes and are able to help them access home and community based services. It will also ensure that caregivers have good-paying jobs and living wages. This proposal is a game changer. The Task Force on Aging and Families has led the charge for legislation that helps seniors and families, and we intend to do it again. We must take action now.
This is about helping families and answer the question, who will help me take care of my mother, my grandmother. Who will take care of me? Home health care workers are an essential group of people who are the foundation of the care industry in the United States. We must begin paying them a living wage and treating them with the respect and dignity that they deserve.
CO-CHAIR MATSUI: The pandemic has upended the routines of both paid and unpaid caregivers and forced many to choose between families and jobs. It also intensified historic problems in long-term care, highlighted caregiving disparities in both families and the workforce and made painfully clear how our lack of care infrastructure contributed to our losses in this crisis.
In my district, ACC Senior Services helps families in the Sacramento region navigate current home and community-based services and other local caregiving resources. Throughout this work, they have found the current infrastructure frustratingly limited. For example, even families with Medicaid and in-home support services have difficulty hiring caregivers due to low wages and poor working conditions. And family members who actually work as in-home care workers often cannot make their living and worry about their future and life after retirement.
Building bridges and roads and expanding broadband are traditional infrastructure and supporting American families through health care is essential infrastructure. It’s really not an either or. We need both to get America back to work.
CO-CHAIR LAMB: I see this is very much a pay now or pay later type situation, just like infrastructure. I don’t care if you call this infrastructure or not. But just like infrastructure, if we don’t make this investment now in paying these workers, treating them with dignity and respect, making them want to stay in the profession and making them feel secure enough on the job that they can really devote their attention and energy to taking care of our loved ones, then we’re all going to experience a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering down the road. We’re on the verge of a lot of baby boomers, that whole generation, needing this type of care in some way. The home health care aides are one of the largest growing job categories in our whole country, there’s a lot of people working in this profession and we owe it to them and the people they’re taking care of to treat this like a profession, not like a gig.
VICE CHAIR DINGELL: I want to tell you, as someone who took care of somebody that I loved very much, you do not realize how broken this system is until you are dealing with long-term care issues. You have no idea of the challenges that you face, the emotional toll and much of the ninety nine and nine tenths of the people in this country and the days I would just sit down in tears with fears. I just can’t tell you. And that’s why this is so important. We’ve seen nearly three million women leave the workforce because of Covid and many of them are doing it simply, most of them, because of the need for caregiving.
Passing this bill means that we could retain 10.7 million jobs by providing support to family caregivers. We have to do something. Our long-term care system is broken. We need a comprehensive system that pays for the care that people need and supports family caregivers and that’s why I am working with stakeholders and the Senate on a framework for the Biden Administration’s $400 billion HCBS proposal, the Home and Care Community Services Program.
VICE CHAIR DEUTCH: After four years of inaction in the last administration, President Biden and this administration are ready to get this done for the American people. The fact is that investing in home and community-based services for seniors and disabled Americans and caring for children and ensuring that caregivers can make a living–these are absolutely a part of infrastructure, because if we don’t invest in them, our entire health care system, our economy and our society will all suffer as a result. These investments will prepare our country for the so-called silver tsunami for the coming decades as our nation ages.
The Census Bureau tells us that 2030 is going to be a major turning point in our society when older people outnumber kids for the first time in history. So in just nine years, the Census Bureau data shows that one in every five Americans will be retirement age. So we’ve got to prepare now.
CAUCUS CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: The caregiving economy is not a Democratic issue or Republican issue. It’s an American issue. The United States of America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. Certainly, we can afford to invest in ensuring that older Americans and those with disabilities can live with dignity and respect. We squarely stand behind President Biden’s $400 billion proposal to invest in the caregiving infrastructure.