Biden’s $775B plan sheds light on the U.S. caregiving crisis

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Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has announced a $775 billion plan to enhance childcare and eldercare programs in the U.S., shining a light on an issue that has impacted working Americans for decades.

For many employees who are parents or caring for an elderly loved one, finding a way to provide support while maintaining focus on their work has been a challenge. Indeed, caregiver responsibilities can have a significant impact on employee mental health, and over 80% of employees say caregiving has affected their productivity at work, according to a Harvard Business Review survey.

“We're in the midst of a childcare and nursing care crisis, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19, and employees with kids and aging parents are struggling,” says Lindsay Jurist-Rosner, CEO of Wellthy, a care benefits service provider. “The U.S. desperately needs more care policies, spending, and federal and state infrastructure, so that Americans with care responsibilities can stay in the workforce.”

Biden’s plan would be financed by taxes on real-estate investors with incomes of more than $400,000, and by a tax increase on high-income earners. The plan would also eliminate the waiting list for home and community services under Medicaid, and would offer low-income and middle-class families a tax credit of as much as $8,000 to help pay for child care. The plan would also increase pay for caregivers and early childhood educators, while also calling for universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds. Biden also intends to give caregivers and early childhood educators a pay increase.

“We need to make high-quality child care affordable and accessible. As president, I'll give every three and four- year-old access to free, high-quality preschool,” Biden tweeted on July 21. “And low- to middle-income families won’t spend more than 7% of their income on quality care for children under age five.”

Biden’s plan has the potential to impact a significant portion of the workforce who care for aging parents or other relatives, says Dave Jacobs, co-CEO of care provider Homethrive. Biden’s plan puts eldercare “front and center” he says.

“Twenty percent of people in the workforce spend at least 10 hours a week supporting aging parents,” Jacobs says. “Often the needs of those caring for an aging family member is overshadowed by the needs of parents caring for young children. Access and increased affordability of elder care services will really ease the burden of caregiving.”

Nearly one in four caregivers are members of the sandwich generation — those who care for their own children as well as an elderly parent or loved one — according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These employees are battling emotional and financial stress, and often feel they need to keep their home and work life separate. But now, employers are realizing that integrating personalized care into their benefits plans is a key retention and recruitment tool that enables employees to bring their whole selves to work.

“This is a women's issue, an equality issue, and a future of work issue, not to mention an issue of how we want to support our aging and vulnerable population,” Jurist-Rosner says.

Providing financial resources and caregiving benefits can ease the financial strain caregivers face. Caregivers spend nearly $7,000 a year in out-of-pocket costs caring for their loved ones, according to AARP data. In addition to caregiving benefits, an EAP program can help employees find affordable care solutions, manage schedules, and provide employees with coping skills, according to research from WorkplaceSolutions, an organization of professionals who work to provide others with assistance and resources to manage their lives.

Amber Clayton, the Society for Human Resource Management’s Knowledge Center director, utilized her company’s EAP to find backup childcare services when her daughter’s care center unexpectedly closed.

“We were left without childcare so we called our EAP and they were able to give us a directory of childcare providers that were in the area, the approximate cost and who to reach out to,” Clayton says. “We were able to find another childcare facility quickly. Employee assistance programs, of course they are all different, can provide some guidance and help with childcare and eldercare needs.”

Biden’s plan for informal caregivers also includes a $5,000 tax credit for caregivers’ Social Security credits, and professional and peer support for caregivers of wounded, injured, or sick active duty service members and veterans.

“This proposal would increase the use of caregiving benefits because it would be easier for Americans to access these benefits either through private insurance or Medicare,” Jacobs says.

Currently, 20% of employers don’t offer caregiving benefits, and have no plans to adopt any, according to a study by DMEC. While Biden’s proposed plan will help ease the strain for many, a workplace benefit is still a crucial piece to supporting this workplace population, Jacobs says.

“American workers will still want a caregiver coordination and concierge service benefit from their employer because figuring out which services their family needs and coordinating these services can be very time consuming and confusing, he says. “While online resources do exist to help caregivers figure out how to support an aging loved one at home, what’s most helpful to caregivers is for an experienced professional who knows how to navigate the system to help them understand what services they need and which ones they qualify for.”

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