US Economic Recovery Requires Helping Working Parents Care for Their Families

Published on May 20, 2021

The Biden administration has announced the release of $39 billion of American Rescue Plan funds to address the child care crisis caused by COVID-19. While this move is essential to protecting working families, it neither solves, nor even acknowledges, an under-represented segment of our society in need of care: people with disabilities and their families and caretakers. It also leaves out eldercare, something that was expected to be included. 

The administration’s plan highlights childcare, which typically refers to children up to age 12. Where does this leave people between age 13 and up, particularly those who need specialized care? Traditional child and elder care are contained during a set of defined years; communities with special care needs are lifelong with deep and dynamic impact on families

Special care needs include everyone from children with hyperactivity and processing disorders to adults with Down syndrome, Autism, and physical disabilities. Parents of children with special needs, ages 13 or 45, continue to need the same level of support they had at age 12. Support may be required even more as hormones and medication change.

The fragility of this segment was dramatic pre-pandemic, but their caretaking needs are heightened as a result of the spread of COVID-19. This is especially impactful for mothers and daughters. Data indicates the extent to which women have been forced to leave the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities, setting the female population will be set back 10 years in the workplace.

If we want to make a lasting change that helps everyone, we must expressly recognize this social cohort within these new policies. A step in the right direction, the Biden administration is removing waitlists from in-home and community-based programs. Having worked as Home and Community Based Service Providers and seeing these waitlists first-hand, we acknowledge the importance of this move. 

In addition to government initiatives, corporations must expand their benefits for employees who are caregivers, too. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, nearly one in six employees care for an ill or elderly family member. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 61.1% of married-couple families with children have both parents employed. And about 75% of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities–there approximately 57 million people total in the U.S with a disability — continue to live with their parents through adulthood. This huge population simply does not have enough resources. 

By changing policies and offering more robust care benefits, both governmental and private sector, the country and economy will benefit. Stress, anxiety, health risks, divorce rates and financial strain, all of which impact someone’s work performance, could be reduced. Productivity and workplace engagement would increase, and health care costs would go down. Perhaps most importantly, when solid caretaking arrangements are in place, you have a happier and healthier working population. 

The pandemic shed light on significant suffering that preceded it. If we want to move forward in a genuinely productive and supportive way, we need to include support to all age groups, and define out special benefits for those with specialized needs. 

Melissa Danielsen is a contributor to Grit Daily and with Melanie Fountaine co-founded  Joshin, a specialized sitter, nanny, caregiver, and respite care platform that also works with corporations to provide specialized care as a benefit.

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