Haaland, Castro Urge House Leadership to Establish Family Care for Essential Workers and Vulnerable Family Caregivers During COVID-19

April 30, 2020
Press Release
Washington, D.C. - Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01), and Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees today released the following statements after urging House Leadership to prioritize the needs of and provide Family Care to family caregivers and essential workers in Congress’ upcoming relief bill. Family Care would expand paid sick, medical, and family leave, provide access to affordable childcare, provide affordable physical and mental health care, ensure supports for the caregiving of seniors and people with disabilities, and provide cash assistance to offset the unexpected costs required to safely respond to COVID-19:
 
“All essential workers deserve access to relief that will help them get through this crisis safely. Even though the need for home health workers and caregivers has increased as hospitals transition to coronavirus care, they are left out of the picture when we talk about frontline workers. These folks are heroes – they continue to care for their patients and take on a new role while putting themselves and their families at risk for the health of others. We have to include them in relief and show our gratitude with more than words,” said Congresswoman Haaland.
 
“The frontlines of this crisis start at home and will remain there as we fight this pandemic for the long haul. It’s vital that we expand the definition of who is an essential worker, including home health aides, family caregivers, and childcare workers who continue to work tirelessly during this pandemic to serve others,” said Congressman Castro. “Caregivers across Texas have long faced challenges. The gross inequality of our health care and childcare systems is starker than ever, and that includes a complete lack of support for our nation’s caregivers. That infrastructure must be reinforced so it is stronger for elders, families, children, people with disabilities, childcare providers, and the caregivers themselves, who are in danger of losing their lives and livelihoods from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.”
  
Full text of the letter follows and can be found here
 
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy,
 
In recent years, demographic shifts and wage stagnation have made it harder for people to manage work and care for their families. The COVID-19 pandemic has put our public health and collective wellbeing at risk in newly urgent ways. As schools, childcare programs, and community centers for seniors and people with disabilities are closed - and as hospitals and makeshift care centers exceed capacity -- the need for care at home has increased with the need to reduce potential exposure to coronavirus. Now more than ever, caregivers are under extra pressure to work and care for their families at home.
 
Over 52 million people are caregivers who provide care, services, and support to children, people with disabilities, sick adults, and seniors in their homes and communities. Of those, 33 million are unpaid primary family caregivers of seniors and people with disabilities, 11 million are sandwich generation caregivers who are simultaneously caring for a child and an adult, 4.5 million are direct care workers, 2.3 are domestic workers, and 2 million are childcare workers. Many of these caregivers are still working to keep our care systems going and to make it possible for other crisis responders to work. It is vital that we invest in home and community-based care infrastructure and that caregivers have the benefits and resources needed to fight COVID-19. The frontlines start at home and will remain there as we fight this pandemic for the long haul.
 
The first three COVID-19 relief bills largely overlooked the needs of caregivers and those whose care needs may be best served in their homes. This is why the upcoming relief bill should establish “Family Care” for all essential workers and vulnerable family caregivers. Family Care would expand paid sick, medical, and family leave; provide access to affordable childcare; provide affordable physical and mental health care; ensure supports for the caregiving of seniors and people with disabilities; and provide cash assistance to offset the unexpected costs required to safely respond to COVID-19. As part of Family Care, the federal government should establish a one-stop web portal and app for essential workers to access information, find resources, assess eligibility for various programs, and apply for benefits.
 
The upcoming relief bill should also adopt an expansive definition of who is an essential worker, including all workers like home health aides and early education and childcare workers who must go to work during this pandemic. As such, they should:
 
  1. Be paid a living wage, including hazard pay for care services;
  2. Be trained on COVID-19 care and have access to free personal protective equipment as necessary, and mobile and home tests if ever available; 
  3. Have access to affordable health care that includes testing, treatment, telehealth, and mental health services; and
  4. Receive Family Care benefits.
 
Relief legislation also needs to significantly bolster and invest in our existing child and home care infrastructure, which were already operating at a financial and structural deficit prior to the pandemic. This is necessary to prevent a system-wide infrastructure collapse, support frontline workers and caregivers, and prepare to meet the needs of working people during the recovery. We must provide funding to allow child care providers who are closed to cover their operational costs, including continuing to pay their staff, and ensure that across all of the investments, sufficient public funding must be provided so that the burden of cost does not fall on either care providers or families. We must also fund home and community-based transition planning for seniors and people with disabilities who are at high-risk and currently in institutional settings. We must also provide monthly flexible benefits to people who need care to cover unexpected and emerging needs such as grocery and meal delivery, and to address the acute worker shortage, give grants to community-based organizations to recruit new care workers and quickly train and deploy them.
 
The gross inequality and fragmented nature of our social safety nets and health care systems is starker than ever, and nowhere is it more glaring than in the lack of support for our nation’s caregivers. Our care infrastructure must be reinforced so it is stronger for elders, families, children, people with disabilities, childcare providers, and caregivers who are in danger of losing their lives and livelihoods from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The stakes have never been so high for the health and wellbeing of our nation, and our future is dependent on our ability to care for ourselves and our loved ones while keeping our families financially secure.