LatinaLista -- The ongoing fight in Congress over whether or not to raise the nation's debt ceiling centers on just how much sacrifice should be inflicted on some of the most vulnerable people in this nation -- namely, senior citizens and people with disabilities.
To help ensure that these two groups don't suffer from lack of care, an innovative national campaign kicks off today dubbed Caring Across Generations.
Caring Across Generations seeks to transform long-term care for care recipients, care workers, and families who struggle to find and afford quality care for their loved ones. The campaign aims to protect -- Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security --while creating: two million new care jobs, training and protection for workers, new paths to citizenship for immigrant workers, and measures to make care more affordable for struggling families.
The movement, led by a coalition of more than 70 organizations representing women, people with disabilities, seniors, workers, students, and caregivers, is a result of two realizations -- every eight seconds, one American turns 65, and the need for long term care and support services has been steadily growing -- from 13 million in 2000 to 27 million projected for 2050.
It's no accident that the only workers who have assumed the responsibility of caring for our elderly and disabled are either overstressed family members or a domestic workforce comprised in part by immigrants and those who lack the necessary training to deal with a population in need of specialized care. Due to the stressful nature of the job, many of these workers find themselves exploited or receiving very little opportunities to advance themselves.
This campaign wants to address the care crisis in the nation by proposing a federal policy solution to members of Congress that would include:
1. Creating jobs: Create 2 million new jobs in home care (anticipating that the direct care workforce will grow by 1.1 million jobs, adding approximately 2 million additional new jobs) to meet growing need.
2. Transforming the quality of current jobs and anticipated new jobs
Establish stronger labor standards that protect health and safety for both the worker and the recipient of care
Improve job quality, wages, and access to health insurance
Support the right to organize and a path to unionization for direct care and domestic
3. Providing training for workers and build career ladders
Build a career ladder and improved job training and certification programs to raise the quality of care and prepare workers for long-term quality jobs
4. Providing a path to citizenship
Create a new visa category to create a path to citizenship for participants in the training and certification program.
5. Supporting individuals and families
Preserve and expand Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and the Affordable Care Act
Ensure that improving job quality does not jeopardize access for low-income recipients of care by providing concurrent financial support for families paying "out of pocket" for care
Provide support to find, hire, and manage care, and to foster positive and open
Support unpaid family caregivers who are taking time from employment with social
security credits and paid family leave.
The campaign has set up 18 "Care Councils" across the country. Each Care Council is made up of a diverse group of organizations representing the full range of relationships to care, including organizations of older adults and people with disabilities, womenʼs groups, workers organizations and unions, immigrant rights groups, faith-based groups, and community and youth organizations.
Today's kick-off for the campaign features a "Care Congress" town hall-style event in Washington, D.C. featuring personal testimonies by older adults, people with disabilities, home care and domestic workers, and their children and families about the crisis in care facing millions of families.
The day's activities also includes "Medicaid Matters Across Generations," a 300-person forum on Capitol Hill co-hosted by Senators John Kerry, Robert Menendez, and Charles Schumer; and an address by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.
Over the next year, "Care Congresses" will be held in more than 15 U.S. cities.
While everyone acknowledges the budget is tight and sacrifices must be made, the quality of care of seniors and the disabled should not be included in that list of sacrifices -- because it's a quality of life issue that will impact every American sooner or later.