Democratic MP Alma Adams represents North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District, which includes Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter: @RepAdams.
Infrastructure keeps our economy moving. Roads, railroad tracks and ports allow products to be transported across the country. Broadband keeps our employees productive even during a pandemic. Stationary schools and universities impart professional skills and enrich life with culture. Airplanes make traveling easier for jobs that absolutely need to be done personally, and our electrical grid powers almost every aspect of our personal and work lives.
It’s safe to say that infrastructure enables a global economy. So why can’t we perceive the care economy in the same way?
Women in particular are forced to leave the labor market due to COVID-19, but for many families, a woman’s income is the only source of income. My mother cleaned houses so we could survive and make ends meet, but we just got by. Like many mothers, she had to work during the most important times of my childhood.
Stay informed of news and events that are affecting Charlotte’s black communities.
My mother’s savings allowed me to go to college, so I grew up knowing how much parents sacrifice for their loved ones.
Now, in the wake of a world-changing pandemic, parents and caregivers cannot or will not go back to work unless their children, parents and loved ones are cared for. It is high time for America to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure of the care industry.
As all young parents know, childcare in our country is in a crisis. As childcare becomes more and more expensive, median wages for childcare workers at national level remain below the poverty line. By the end of last year, 25% of childcare programs were closed, taking away millions of places for children and making competition for the remaining places even more controversial – and expensive -.
In my home state of North Carolina, the median wage for the complicated jobs of educators is below 13 dollars an hour – also below the poverty line.
Tar Heel state has only 1 ECEC staff member for every 20 of its 735,000 children aged 0-5, and this inequality will only increase if we allow childcare facilities to close permanently.
This is one of the many reasons I voted for the $ 39 billion childcare emergency aid in the American Rescue Plan. Many educators and childcare workers have been able to keep their doors open because of this emergency aid, but this funding is not permanent and the crisis will continue even if the economy recovers.
Make no mistake: By building our care infrastructure and rescuing the care industry, we enable parents and carers – a predominantly female group – to return to work and help the entire economy to recover. Congress must adopt an employment plan and a family plan to make this possible.
In addition, it is important that workers have access to paid vacation, and not just during a public health emergency. The United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee its workers any form of paid vacation. According to a recent study by the Center for American Progress, working families who do not have access to paid family and sick leave suffer approximately $ 21 billion in lost wages that could otherwise be spent on housing, childcare, food, education, or other everyday necessities. When Americans do not have paid vacation, it harms working families, worsens the wealth gap for women, exacerbates racial inequality, and affects small businesses that rely primarily on consumer spending.
Though some of my friends across the aisle have problems with it Definition of the care industry as an infrastructure, it’s a popular suggestion. Supporting the care industry is a cross-party issue with 61% of the likely votersSupporting this aspect of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan. Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn famously mocked the president’s proposal to invest $ 400 billion in elderly care, despite recent polls showing 63% of Trump voters support such an investment.
Whether or not you view investments in the care industry as “infrastructure” does not change the urgency of the need. COVID-19 continues to challenge our families and small businesses, so it is not time to tell household breadwinners to choose between their family and their future. So let’s pass the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan so that our family members and carers, who give us everything, can create a bright future too.