Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D) met virtually with former HUD Secretary Julián Castro and Las Vegas based home care worker Tracey Richards to talk up former Vice President Joe Biden and his “Build Back Better” plan. More specifically, they discussed some critical matters in health care and public education that have generally been recognized as problems, but are now being viewed even more critically in our present COVID-19-tainted world.
“Our country is experiencing a caregiving crisis. This crisis developed before COVID-19, but it’s being brought to the forefront now.”
– Julián Castro
With Nevada’s and the nation’s COVID-19 stats continually worsening, the state preparing to execute a broad array of budget cuts, and the nation still trying to figure out “what in the hell they are doing” in the Trump White House, former Vice President Joe Biden and his campaign are seeking to project a sense of calm amidst the chaos of Donald Trump’s presidency. Though I and others often doubted the efficacy of Biden’s “return to normalcy” theme earlier in the campaign cycle, Biden’s enduring lead over Trump in most national (and swing state) polls seems to suggest otherwise.
We’re seeing this divide grow even starker this week, as Donald Trump brings back his “coronavirus briefing” media circus while Joe Biden unveils his new “caring economy” plan to invest $775 billion in overhauling the in-home care system that currently leaves patients vulnerable to increasingly shaky state health care programs (such as Nevada’s) while leaving home care workers underpaid and without their own health care.
In opening the Biden campaign’s virtual roundtable on the “caring economy”, Julián Castro noted, “Essential workers, who are disproportionately women and women of color, continue to report to work despite the risk to themselves and their families.” He then added, “Our country is experiencing a caregiving crisis. This crisis developed before COVID-19, but it’s being brought to the forefront now.”
“In-home care is too expensive and too hard to find. It does not have to be this way.”
– U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen
Again, a lot of Nevadans had to learn so much of this the hard way earlier this month, when Governor Steve Sisolak (D) and the Nevada Legislature had to decide which “optional” (as defined by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) health care services to cut and which to spare. While legislators ultimately resorted to some “creative accounting” to pare back Sisolak’s originally recommended cuts, everyone who relies on such services and who provides such care remains vulnerable unless and until the federal government intervenes (as the state often can’t and nearly always won’t).
So how will Biden’s “caring economy” program and overall “Build Back Better” plan address this? For one, Biden proposes $450 billion in new federal Medicaid funding for in-home care that a number of older Americans and Americans with disabilities consider essential, and that includes funding for 150,000 more in-home care workers along with the extension of collective bargaining and union organizing rights to all home care workers. On the other end of the spectrum, he also wants to implement a sliding scale of subsidies to ensure that no household spends more than 7% of their income on child care. In addition Biden’s plan includes funding for universal Pre-K, and for new after school programs that will be available on weekends and during the summer break.
As U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen summed up Biden’s child care proposal, “This is going to save families thousands of dollars. This means that average American families will spend no more than $45 a week, and that families in Nevada will spend no more than $28 a week.” And on in-home care for older Americans and Americans with disabilities, “In-home care is too expensive and too hard to find. It does not have to be this way.”
“For a lot of our clients, we are their lifeline. Without us, I don’t know what they’ll do.”
– Tracey Richards, SEIU member and home care worker
Rosen cited her own experience in taking time off work to care for ailing family members in explaining the importance of the “caring economy”. In response to home care worker and SEIU 1107 member Tracey Richards, Rosen said, “I just want to say to Tracey: Thank you. […] I know how hard you work, and that you are all angels who helped when I needed help.”
Rosen then declared, “You are critical essential workers. We need to make sure you are making a living wage, that you have the health coverage you need, that you can take care of your families just like you take care of ours.”
Throughout the program, Richards weighed in herself on Biden’s plan and how it will affect her and other home care workers. “Can you imagine doing a job for 15 years and not receiving a raise?,” Richards asked. She continued, “For a lot of our clients, we are their lifeline. Without us, I don’t know what they’ll do.”
Richards has worked as a home care worker for over 15 years, and she is one of many who continue to work during this COVID-19 pandemic. As Richards noted, “We are out here risking our lives to make sure the elderly and disabled are being taken care of. As a home care worker, I’m asking for the pay, the health care, and the benefits we need to make sure we can continue to care for our clients.”
“Vice President Biden’s plan will give these workers a raise, needed benefits, and a stronger chance of survival.”
– Tracey Richards
When Castro asked what Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan means for her, she listed off the ability to pay her bills on time, secure better health care coverage, and provide more for her family. She then zoomed out and noted, “All of these workers tend to be women of color who’ve been underpaid and not recognized for the essential work they do. Vice President Biden’s plan will give these workers a raise, needed benefits, and a stronger chance of survival.”
Castro then closed the program with this statement: “People are looking for solutions. They don’t want politics. They want solutions.” Perhaps Nevada and the nation will find out how true this statement actually is in 103 days.
If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health District, Washoe County Health District, Carson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square.