Day care center

Nancy Harvey, who runs a child day care service out of her home in Oakland, Calif., plays with children on May 19, 2017.

(Photo: Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Progressives Applaud Biden Executive Order to Expand, Improve Care Economy

"Biden has heard our calls and sees the growing power of our movement," said one advocacy group.

Labor unions and other progressives on Tuesday said a new slate of executive actions unveiled by U.S. President Joe Biden demonstrated the political power of caregivers and their supporters who have spent years advocating for fair wages, affordable childcare, and an extension of labor protections across the care economy.

Biden signed an order that the White House said amounts to "the most sweeping set of executive actions to improve care in history," including measures to make childcare more affordable for families, increasing pay and benefits for childcare workers, and improving supports for people who provide care for their family members.

"We applaud the administration's unprecedented executive order on care," said advocacy group Care Across Generations. "Biden has heard our calls and sees the growing power of our movement."

The White House said the executive order will direct federal agencies to take several steps to lower childcare costs for families, more than half of whom pay 20% or more of their income on care. Biden is calling on agencies to:

  • Identify grant programs that can support childcare and long-term care for people working on federal projects;
  • Lower costs for families who benefit from the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, potentially by eliminating co-pays; and
  • Review opportunities to expand access to childcare services for their employees through federal childcare centers, childcare subsidies, or contracted care for providers.

The actions would also:

  • Boost access to home-based care for veterans by directing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to consider piloting a new care program and adding 75 new teams to its home-based primary care program, allowing it to serve 5,600 more people;
  • Direct the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to ensure childcare providers whose clients use CCDBG receive higher reimbursements;
  • Direct HHS to more strictly regulate the quality of home healthcare jobs and condition Medicaid and Medicare payments on minimum staffing and staff retention at home health agencies and nursing homes;
  • Introduce a new dementia care model at HHS that would include support for short-term help that a family caregiver can retain in order to have a break and require the VA to consider expanding access to its mental health support program for family caregivers;
  • Direct the Department of Labor to publish a sample employment agreement "so domestic childcare and long-term care workers and their employers can ensure both parties better understand their rights and responsibilities"; and
  • Streamline the process for Indigenous tribes that receive federal childcare assistance and Head Start to construct and improve childhood facilities, allowing tribes to expand care for the "approximately half a million American Indian and Alaska Native children under the age of 13 who potentially need child care so their parents can work."

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said the executive actions demonstrate that Biden has "rightfully recognized... that access to affordable, quality care services are necessary for every family to thrive."

Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), noted that the policies are "directly responsive" to the CPC's Executive Action Agenda that was unveiled last month.

"As the Covid-19 pandemic made abundantly clear, care workers are essential to our economy and to the health and well-being of all our communities," said Jayapal. "But for too long, child care and home care have been unaffordable, inaccessible, and care workers dramatically undervalued and underpaid. That is why the Congressional Progressive Caucus has advocated for legislative and executive action on the care economy, and why I'm thrilled to applaud this new order from the Biden administration today."

Child care advocates including Jayapal noted that they will continue pushing for Congress and the White House to pass legislation to ensure universal paid family and sick leave, "child care, aging, and disabled care."

"Lawmakers have long understood that ensuring families have access to affordable child care will require action from every level of government," saidFirst Five Years Fund executive director Sarah Rittling. "We look forward to continuing to work with the White House and Members of Congress to build on the long-standing bipartisan support for child care, and enact solutions that address the daily challenges too many families across the country face in accessing the care they need."

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