What Does Biden’s Job Plan Mean for Families and Kids with Disabilities?

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced his administration’s infrastructure plan, which includes provisions intended to increase home care access for elderly people and improve working conditions for caregivers. Should it pass in Congress — these funding expansions could also positively impact children with disabilities and their families. Here are the most important things to know about this plan and its policies so far.

 


  What are the details of Biden’s plan?

  • Through the American Jobs Plan, Biden is asking for $400 billion to expand home-based care services. The money would be spent over an eight-year period on both home- and community-based care for elderly people and people with disabilities. This will nearly double the previous amount of money that the United States spent on home caregiving services via Medicaid in 2018 (which is currently the last year of expenses documented).
     
  • During his 2020 campaign, Biden emphasized a mission to “clear the backlog” of the estimated 800,000 people on Medicaid waiting lists in need of home caregiving services. As of right now, the Jobs Plan does not provide any specifics regarding if or how the government will accomplish that. (As Jeff Stein reports for the Washington Post, this leaves “much of the specifics of the program to be decided in negotiations with Congress.”)
     
  • Increased funding for home care through these provisions will only go into effect if the entire Jobs Plan passes in Congress. 
A tweet from New York senator Kirstin Gillibrand reads: paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.
As NPR reports, the debate about the Jobs Plan has also become a debate about what infrastructure means. “Infrastructure jobs” have traditionally referred to “men’s work.” But as New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand points out, infrastructure jobs are also child care and caregiving, which continue to fall primarily to daughters and mothers.


  How would this funding improve U.S. caregiving?

  • “Unlike most other industrialized nations, the United States does not provide a public long-term-care benefit for all older adults,” Jeff Stein writes — which also means a lack of services for many children with disabilities when they become adults.
     
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents almost 1 million caregivers, pushed for Biden to include caregivers and people who utilize their services in the Jobs Plan.
     
  • The constant lack of funding available to care facilities impedes their ability to provide enough care to the populations that need them. For example, they’re unable to hire enough caregivers and staff — an ongoing problem made even more dire by the COVID-19 pandemic. Caregivers that are on staff and able to work are often on public assistance due to low pay.

 


  What could this plan mean for parents of children with disabilities?

  • “Some middle-class families whose children have disabilities and are on Medicaid may also be helped by the measure,” Stein reports — but it doesn’t help every family who deserves home-based care.
     
  • “It’s a really big deal and a huge, huge step from where we are . . But there’s nothing for you if you’re not a Medicaid beneficiary. There are far more non-Medicaid recipients receiving long-term care — and he’s not helping them at all,” Howard Gleckman, a long-term-care expert at the Tax Policy Center, told WaPo.
     
  • The hope is that Congressional Democrats will help develop the plan’s policies to support more people. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa),who is behind legislation to establish a national “Caregiver Corps,” told WaPo through a spokesperson, “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that every older adult and person with a disability should be able to receive long-term services and supports in the setting of their choice — including at home.”
     

As Biden’s Jobs Plan moves through Congress, we’ll be following updates about the home care provisions, especially as they affect children with disabilities. We’ll also be watching for more information from the Biden administration later this month regarding provisions for child care and family medical leave. Stay tuned! 

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