Investing in America’s care economy workforce and infrastructure will boost U.S. economy & improve access to essential health, education, childcare and elder care services 

PAWTUCKET, RI – In an effort to boost economic recovery, deliver critical services for children, families, and seniors, and promote sustainable economic growth, U.S. Senator Jack Reed is teaming up with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo to promote workforce investments and initiatives to strengthen America’s care economy, attract and reward human services employees, and bolster America’s caregiver network. 

From child care staff to senior caregivers helping older Americans live independently from the comfort of their own home to social workers assisting families in need, the “care economy” encompasses many public and private enterprises delivering health, education, and social services and contributes $648 billion to the U.S. economy. 

Federal investment in the care economy is both an economic and moral imperative, and a major opportunity for innovation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects that by 2040, the number of Americans aged 65 and older will more than double to 80 million, while the number of adults aged 85 and older will almost quadruple.

Today, Senator Reed and Secretary Raimondo joined with caregivers, workforce development experts, innovators, community and business leaders in calling for major new investments in the care economy, including making care affordable, taking financial care of our care workforce, and addressing the lack of quality care facilities.

“Care economy workers are the definition of essential.  Moving past the pandemic requires us to move the care economy forward to benefit workers, employers, those who need care now and in the future, and those who provide it.  The federal government must wisely invest in strengthening the care economy to boost short-term recovery and foster long-term, sustainable growth.  The Biden Administration’s Build Back Better agenda offers a major step forward and Congress needs to act,” said Senator Reed.

“The Biden-Harris administration has made tremendous progress in helping our economy build back better in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in order to make a full recovery, it is imperative that we support and strengthen our nation’s care economy as well. Investing in our caregivers and making care more affordable was always front of mind when I was Governor of Rhode Island and continues to be one of my biggest priorities at the Department of Commerce,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “President Biden has proposed historic investments in care infrastructure that would support access to affordable, high-quality care; raise wages; increase opportunities for the care workforce; and create more jobs. I am proud to be a part of this effort and I am equally proud to watch Rhode Island continue to lead the way on this issue.”

Reed and Raimondo began the day with a tour of phlebotomy technician training offered by the Cranston Public Schools Career & Technical Center and Cranston Adult Education Program.  There, local students are learning about phlebotomy, the practice of drawing blood from patients and taking those blood specimens to a laboratory to prepare for testing.  The need for people with phlebotomy skills has increased dramatically during the pandemic, and phlebotomy training is often a stepping-stone to careers in health care.

Next, Secretary Raimondo and Senator Reed met with caregivers, including child care providers and senior care workers, at a care economy roundtable at the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket. The discussion focused on addressing America’s human services and caregiver staffing needs and shifting workforce landscape as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a 2020 survey by AARP, more than 50 million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers for loved ones with chronic illnesses, disabilities, and special needs. According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, over 7.5 million respondents attribute caring for a child who was not in school or daycare as the main reason they were unemployed. And millions of Americans left their jobs during the pandemic due to caregiving responsibilities or were forced to alter their work schedules to care for children, parents, or loved ones coping with health issues.

To help strengthen America’s economy and lower the cost of child care and elder care for families and seniors while paying living wages to care providers, President Biden’s “American Jobs Plan” and “American Families Plan” would deliver a $600 billion boost for the care economy.  Under Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, about $400 billion over a decade would dedicated toward giving more elderly and disabled people basic care and reliable, affordable services they need to live healthy and independent lives, while $200 billion would go toward stabilizing the child care system and creating free universal pre-K opportunities.

During the pandemic, Senator Reed helped direct $125 million in federal funding to enhance child care in Rhode Island.

And earlier this month, with Reed’s backing, the U.S. Senate voted 69 to 30 to pass a major infrastructure package that makes investments in roads, bridges, rail, transit, airports, ports, water systems, and high-speed broadband.

When the U.S. Senate returns to Washington, DC next month it is expected to debate a $3.5 trillion proposal designed to help create jobs and lower child care, senior care, prescription drug, housing, and higher education costs for working families.  The measure also includes paid and family leave policies that would increase labor force participation, strengthen America’s global competitiveness, and reduce the burdens on caregivers.