An Investment In Black Women Caregivers Is An Investment In The Recovery And Future Of America
Black women stood on the frontlines for America, now we must deliver for them.
June 25, 2021 at 2:00 pm
Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity's.
As part of the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden included a $400 billion investment over 10 years in home care for older and disabled Americans. With a historic investment in the care industry, this legislation is the first jobs program that recognizes the work and properly values the essential service of women of color. If passed, it will result in as many as 1 million new caregiving jobs, expand access to home and community care services, and build a sustainable workforce for our most vulnerable communities.
This is a historic initiative that will transform not only the lives of Black women, but also their families and the future of their communities.
Our ongoing fight against COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain on the complex and persistent disparities Black women face. Throughout its history, the industry has been shaped by long-standing racist and sexist policies; the home care workforce is 87% women, with more than half identifying as Black, Latina and Asian women, and three in 10 immigrants. These women raise families with a median income of less than $17,000, one of the lowest wages in the country, with little to no benefits. They face systemic obstacles to joining together in a union and are therefore unable to bargain for better, safer working conditions. Yet despite every barrier, these women show up every day to keep our families and communities going. They are an essential part of our workforce and it's time we treat them that way.
Some critics call this proposal a farce and a distraction, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Care work provides seniors and people with disabilities the support they need to live with dignity and independence in the setting of their choice. It’s the foundation of our economy — no one can do their job if their loved ones aren’t cared for.
Just like roads and bridges, care workers make all work possible and will for years to come. With an aging senior population and rising demand for care work, it’s estimated we’ll need to fill 4.7 million home care jobs by 2028 — making it one of the fastest-growing jobs in the nation — but we cannot do that sustainably or morally when one in six home care workers live in poverty. This investment is essential to our recovery — we need care workers to get America back to work. There is no doubt about it: We need to meet this moment with action.
Investing in those who care for us is a huge step to create an inclusive, equitable economy that works for everyone. All people should have a fair shot at the American dream, with no limitations. Communities of color need targeted investments, not just broad gestures, in order to solve widespread inequities. But following this last year of racial reckoning in America and months of momentum toward liveable wages, it is now clearer than ever that we have work to do to ensure we achieve equity and justice for all.
Given the thin Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate, we know the battle of defining the care industry as essential will be challenging. But we need President Biden and the Democrats to stay the course. At every election, Black women show up and in every crisis they deliver. It’s now time that the country delivers for them.
April Verrett serves as chair of the National SEIU Home Care Council and President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 2015 — California’s largest union, and the nation’s largest long-term care union, representing over 400,000 home care and nursing home workers throughout California.