4:23 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. And good afternoon to everyone. So, we are convened to address a subject that is critical to the well-being of millions of American families and — and, frankly, to the future of our nation, and that is the issue of home and community-based care.
Today, more than 7 million Americans rely on home and community-based care services to live with dignity and independence. Care includes things like transportation services for people who use wheelchairs, 24/7 at-home nursing care for seniors, and community programs for people with de- –developmental disabilities and, of course, care for people who are sick and, in particular, facing acute illnesses.
But today, millions more Americans do not have access to this essential care, either because it is too expensive or because they have to wait for one of the few spots in their state’s Medicaid home care program or simply because there are not enough care workers where they live to meet the demand.
Care work is some of the most important and noble work a person can do — from helping with medication to preparing meals and providing transportation. Care work is physically demanding and emotionally taxing. And it could not be more essential to our nation that this work is done.
I fought for our nation’s care workers my entire career. As Attorney General of California, I helped protect the jobs and salaries and benefits of thousands of care workers during the merger of a healthcare system.
As a United States senator, I introduced the first-ever Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to strengthen workplace protections for the rights of millions of American people who are doing this work. And I have carried this fight with me to the White House.
And let’s be clear, every caregiver in our nation deserves fair pay, safe working conditions, and respect. And every person in our nation deserves access to high-quality care so they can live with safety, dignity, and self-determination.
For all of those reasons, today, I am proud to announce that through the American Rescue Plan, President Biden and I have invested more than $37 billion in home and community-based care in every state in our country.
For example, the President and I are investing billions in education and training to address the national care worker shortage. In Wisconsin, as an example, we are helping to train 10,000 new home healthcare workers.
In Ohio, we are helping to provide $10,000 scholarships for students who are studying behavioral health, whether it be at a four-year college, a community college, or for a certificate program. And we are also providing $5,000 bonuses for graduates who take jobs in community behavioral health centers.
Increased wages for care workers is also one of our biggest priorities. In Pennsylvania, for example, we helped to increase the wages of up to 55,000 workers who serve people with physical and intellectual disabilities. In Colorado, as another example, we helped raise the minimum wage for care workers by more than 25 percent, to the benefit of up to 60,000 workers.
We are also supporting family caregivers, an experience that I’m sure many on this call have had, myself included. Of all caregivers in America, about one in three is unpaid, usually family members caring for an aging parent, a child with a disability, or a spouse who had a stroke, many whom leave full-time jobs to take on these responsibilities and most of them women.
This work is borne out of love, and it can be exhausting. And 24 hours a day, seven days a week is the general job and the work that is involved.
So, in states like Michigan and Delaware and Colorado, we are helping thousands of family caregivers afford to hire a temporary professional caregiver for their loved ones so they can take some time off to relax and recharge.
Thankfully, when I was helping to care for my mother as she was battling cancer, I — I did not have some of the constraints that other family caregivers have. But I can tell you that I so admire and respect what they do. And it truly is a labor of love, and I’ve seen it.
Today, President Biden and I are also calling on states to create comprehensive online registries of all qualified care workers. Put simply, these registries will make it easier for people who need care and people who provide care to find each other. And we will work with states to help make sure these registries are built with a few guiding principles.
First, these online registries should be easy to use and accessible to all, including people with disabilities.
Second, registries should provide answers to important questions, like: What credentials does a person have? Do they have experience working with children or with seniors? And, of course, how do they get in contact?
And then, third, the registries should include culturally competent care: a caregiver that understands the unique identity, background, and cultural needs of the person they are caring for.
Registries will also make it easier for care workers to connect with customers and other care workers so, if the workers want, they can also exercise their right to organize.
And I’ll then conclude with a few words from one of our nation’s greatest champions of care and caregivers, and the recently departed, First Lady Rosalynn Carter. And she said, and I’ll quote, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” And she couldn’t have been more right.
So, when we invest in care, I think we all know we are investing in a brighter future for so many Americans.
And President Biden and I will continue to do our work to make sure that our nation’s care system is more accessible, more affordable, and more equitable for all.
Thank you all, and be well.
END 4:30 P.M. EST