Opinion: Achieving an infrastructure deal without investing in child and elderly care is a huge mistake

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For most of her career, Briana would pay family members to watch over her children, but aligning schedules can be very complicated and inconsistent. She has also tried traditional daycare, but it is not as easy as it seems. Between dropping off her children at daycare and driving to and from her place of work, she was late for work every day and unable to work enough overtime to make up for childcare costs, especially since the daycare had a tough stop when his job didn’t.

She tried to take turns staying at home with the father of her children, a fellow ironworker, but this only caused them both to lose pension credits determined by the number of hours worked. It all came to a head over the past two months and Briana joined the millions of women who left the workforce – unable to continue the family career she worked so hard for, for nearly a decade.

Stories like Briana’s are familiar to families across the country. And as White House and Senate negotiators craft an infrastructure plan, it is precisely workers like her who risk being left out of the improvements the plan promises. A significant investment in care, including affordable access to high-quality care for children and the elderly, would reach all Americans. But leaving that support would retard the economic growth that infrastructure spending could provide.

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he had agreed to a compromise deal with Republicans on infrastructure. While many of its details remain unknown, we do know that it includes many essential investments for Americans: roads and bridges, public transit, broadband, water and electricity systems, and more. But so far, the deal leaves out Biden’s proposal to spend $ 400 million to bolster care for elderly and disabled Americans. Biden’s original infrastructure plan, which contained provisions to build and update energy-efficient child care centers, has already failed to increase the wages and benefits of child care workers. Now, the bipartisan agreement appears to have limited funding for even larger daycares with only a provision that eliminates lead water lines.
Meanwhile, help for home helpers and working mothers like Briana who need access to affordable child care is expected to be built into a separate bill, which Democrats will try to do. go through reconciliation themselves, which requires a lower threshold of 51 votes (or 50 votes with the vice president breaking the tie). While Biden has said he wants the two bills passed in tandem, Senate Republicans who accepted the bipartisan deal are now threatening to back down in an attempt to thwart the reconciliation bill – leaving the future of the two pending laws.

It is essential to invest in care at the same time as we invest in gateways and broadband. The infrastructure plan presented by the White House this week is important and holds great promise for our economy. But without another matching bill aimed at healthcare workers like Briana to get their jobs done, that promise won’t hold.

The pandemic has revealed that our reliance on the underpaid and undervalued care work of women, and especially women of color, places an unsustainable burden on these women, their families, and the economy in general. Yet even before the pandemic, workers who needed access to these life-saving supports the most were the least likely to have it. It is not enough to go back to where we were.
How the

We cannot expect a fair recovery without addressing the lack of child care, home and community services and paid time off that has driven millions of women out of the workforce and devastated security financial support of their families. Individuals, businesses, philanthropic organizations and “the market” cannot solve this crisis. We need significant investments, especially at the federal level, to build an economy that works for all of us. Right now, we should worry about spending too little, not too much.

The path to shared prosperity is through public investment in infrastructure in all its forms. Expanding access to care for children and the elderly while keeping costs affordable and fairly compensating the workers who provide it will require a significant federal investment, dollars that would be better spent by expanding home and community services and adopting key provisions of the U.S. Family Plan, including universal child care and universal paid leave. These must remain a top priority for this White House and this Congress if the benefits of this infrastructure package are to reach all Americans.

The Biden-Harris administration and Congress must continue to champion bold and meaningful investments in our nation’s healthcare infrastructure. A comprehensive plan to support caregivers is not only one of the best ways to ensure the prosperity of our communities, but also enjoys strong bipartisan support from the American public. Investing in health care infrastructure will create good jobs that will support millions of people in the short and long term, as the pandemic begins to recede and the population ages and our care needs become more urgent. Strong public investments in care will also ensure that our economic recovery is fair, including for black women, immigrants, people with disabilities and others whose jobs have been undervalued and laid off for far too long.

For millions of workers like Briana, this struggle for caregiving is not new. As the pandemic has exposed the fragility of our country’s health care infrastructure, returning to this inequitable and unstable status quo would be a serious service to workers, families and the economy as a whole. We have a rare moment to build a new future for workers and families, and it’s up to Congress and the President to seize it.


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