Recently, the US Senate passed a bipartisan $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill, providing funds for our nation’s roads, bridges, climate needs, and broadband infrastructure. But this is just the first piece of much needed infrastructure law.
The reconciliation budget package includes essential investments in women, caregivers and families – including investments in child care, permanent paid family and medical leave, expanded access to health care, making credit d American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Permanent, ensuring Bill is free from abortion restrictions. or blanket bans and the creation of a path to citizenship.
There is no price to pay for the well-being of our families. Without care, the US economy cannot function. The return on investment in the care economy for Arizona residents is invaluable and our families can’t wait any longer.
Caregivers are our unsung heroes. It is parents, family members, health care workers, early childhood educators, caregivers, home health aides and hospice workers who keep our operations running and healthy. communities. I have seen with my own eyes how their work is routinely overlooked, underpaid and rejected, especially by our elected officials. This essential work falls overwhelmingly on women, new Americans, undocumented migrants and women of color. Their work cannot and should not be rejected. The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed that caregivers are the living infrastructure of this country that has kept us safe as we fight a pandemic that has ravaged our communities.
Our country’s healthcare infrastructure was already precarious before the pandemic. It is now in free fall. The National Association for the Education of Young Children recently released a report which found that 80% of child care providers surveyed are experiencing a staff shortage. The price of child care continues to rise and families compete for limited spaces. Long-term care is also in crisis. Hundreds of thousands of older Americans are on the waiting list for home care, and social workers are chronically underpaid.
As a state representative, board member of New American Leaders and a member of the We Demand More coalition – a network of more than eighty progressive organizations fighting for women, especially black women, to Indigenous, Latin, and other women of color are focused on COVID-19 relief and recovery – we know that for women to be successful, we need to invest in a comprehensive care infrastructure that works for everyone.
Over 75% of caregivers are women, and they are disproportionately black, Indigenous, Latino, other women of color, and immigrant women. Nine out of ten home workers in Arizona are women, and more than half are people of color. Care resources cannot be reserved only for a parent who works in an office; it should benefit someone earning minimum wage at Amazon or a hospitality worker. Care that doesn’t work for all of us doesn’t work for any of us.
The Bipartisan Policy Center estimated in 2019 that before the pandemic, 304,180 children in Arizona were in potential child care need and only 234,720 child care spaces in the state, with significantly wider gaps in rural areas of the state. Arizona ranked second in the United States for relocation of retirees over 60, and 22% of our population is 65 or older. The Arizona Department of Health Services has estimated that the number of Arizonans aged 65 and over is expected to nearly triple, from 883,014 in 2010 to 2,422,186 in 2050.
Arizona’s healthcare infrastructure is being pushed to the brink and it will only get worse.
Child care is essential. Long-term care is essential. Paid family and medical leave are essential. Affordable and accessible health care is essential. A reconciliation bill free from abortion restrictions or coverage bans is essential. A path to citizenship is essential.
We are counting on Congress to pass a budget that invests in a comprehensive child care and early learning infrastructure that gives families and caregivers the tools they need to make our economy work for all of us. We’ve long been waiting for paid family and medical leave that guarantees at least 12 weeks of leave to ensure families can come forward for loved ones without worrying about their pay. The US bailout tax credits are expected to reduce child poverty by 50% and affect nearly 90% of our children. We need to make them permanent.
The people of Arizona deserve leaders who are committed to putting the needs of the women, caregivers and families who elected them first. Congress has shown that when they want to, they can adopt meaningful policies that change the lives of millions of Americans. We need our leaders to follow through on the promises that got them elected and pass long-awaited law that puts women, caregivers and families first.