Last Thursday, President Biden announced an over $300 billion infrastructure package that includes hundreds of billions of dollars for roads, bridges, and transportation, which the administration is spinning as an all-around win for both sides of the aisle. But noticeably missing from the package was Biden’s delivery on his campaign promise to support “human infrastructure,” by way of money for caregivers.
According to NBC, Biden originally promised $400 billion for programs that provide at-home care to those who need it most. But those measures were struck from the bill in bipartisan negotiation. Biden claims they will be part of a separate forthcoming bill that NBC reports could pass without bipartisan support. Still, it’s by no means a given that Democrats will pursue that route, particularly considering leadership’s distaste for using political maneuvers that shut out Republicans—even when doing so would mean life-changing results for Americans. As far as anyone can tell, there appears to be little help on the horizon for caregivers.
Coronavirus completely upended the state of work in the U.S., and few sectors were hit as hard as nurses and certified caregivers whose entire careers revolved around walking into strangers’ homes and caring for their most basic needs. As the country begins its so-called return to normalcy these workers are still being left behind and the crucial service they provide has largely fallen to family members taking in their relatives and trying care for them while working other full-time jobs. And with many companies now asking employees to return to offices, people are once again forced to choose between their loved ones and a steady paycheck.
“Full-time home care can cost $4,500 per month,” NBC reports, a steep cost that is unaffordable for the average American family. Without increased funding to state and federal programs that provide trained caregivers for a lower cost to families that qualify, there is no bouncing back from the pandemic, particularly for women. This latest package also seemed to overlook calls for desperately needed bailouts for daycares and improved paid family leave. As Rep. Katie Porter wrote for Jezebel, “The coronavirus has placed greater economic and family burdens on women than men, and we should remind ourselves that it is systemic shortcomings, not individual issues, that make it difficult for many women to participate fully in our labor force.”
Even if everyone on a waiting list for at-home care suddenly had the means to move their loved one into a nursing facility where they can receive around-the-clock care, that still wouldn’t address the huge gaps in childcare keeping many women at home with little recourse. Until the current administration can find a way to get money into caregiving infrastructure—which has proven to be the backbone of the entire economy—more and more people will be forced to do what they’ve been doing for years: wait and hope.