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One year ago, home care workers, and especially the women of color who hold the majority of home care jobs in our country, came out in force, exercised their right to vote, and helped deliver control of the White House and Congress to Democrats.
And over the past year, we’ve watched as Democrats delivered on the campaign promises they made. They passed the American Rescue Plan, putting money in pockets and shots in arms. They’ve turned the tide against COVID-19, even as the Republican Party fought against basic, commonsense public health measures like encouraging people to wear masks and social distance.
And this month, with the House sending the Build Back Better Act to the Senate, Democrats are once again delivering for the working people who gave them their vote last year.
Among the many historic provisions included in the Build Back Better plan, Democrats have delivered full, robust funding — $150 billion in total — to invest in America’s care infrastructure and the care workers who perform critical services for veterans, older adults, and people with disabilities every single day in cities and towns across our country.
Each of us will need the support and assistance of care workers at some point in our lives, and the demand for home care workers grows with each passing day. More than 3.6 million Americans will turn 65 this year. By 2028, America will need to fill 4.5 million home care jobs to meet this rising demand.
But for too long, our country’s home care workers — especially Black, Latina, Asian, indigenous, and immigrant women — have not gotten the pay and benefits they deserve. The average home care worker makes just $18,100 annually. One in six live below the poverty line. Most are denied even the basic right to join a union.
It’s an outrage. No person who works hard should ever have to struggle to provide for themselves and their families. That goes double for the 2.4 million home care workers, 87 percent of whom are women, who stayed on the job, providing essential care for our families and loved ones, throughout the pandemic.
Without strong care infrastructure, America’s families, communities, and economy cannot thrive. That’s why it is so critical that Congress and President BidenJoe BidenDearborn office of Rep. Debbie Dingell vandalized Pfizer to apply for COVID-19 booster approval for 16- and 17-year-olds: report Coronavirus variant raises fresh concerns for economy MORE negotiate an agenda that delivers for care workers.
Build Back Better will make the most significant investment in our country’s care infrastructure in 40 years, since Medicaid was first authorized to pay for these services. It will permanently improve Medicaid coverage for home- and community-based services, meaning more Americans will have access to quality care in their homes, while also supporting the care workers who do this work. It also means that more people will be able to begin a career in homecare work that allows them to put food on their family’s table, send their kids to college, and plan for their own retirements.
During the 2020 campaign, President Biden promised to fight for workers who have been left behind and forgotten for too long. He pledged to grow our economy, not from the top down, but from the middle out. Build Back Better will make that goal a reality by prioritizing the needs of the working women of color who are often the heads of their households and leaders in their communities. And who have, since the New Deal excluded them from many basic rights and protections, been left behind.
In the weeks to come, we will continue working to ensure that the Senate passes Build Back Better with urgency, and that the resources included in this bill benefit as many home care workers, and those who need home- and community- based services, as possible. At the National Domestic Workers Alliance, we will continue fighting to ensure that more home care workers enjoy the right to join a union, and receive the pay and benefits they have earned. And we will not rest until every single veteran, older person, and individual with a disability can access high-quality home care when they need it.
As this work continues, we should never lose sight of the significance of the Build Back Better agenda. President Biden and Democrats in Congress are working to deliver on the promises they made, and values they hold. They have given us hope that we can achieve the equitable, democratic future we deserve in this country, a future where care and care work is valued, supported and protected.
Ai-jen Poo is the Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Senior Advisor to Care in Action
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