The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened attention to the needs for society to support "essential workers" in the helping professions. The Iowa Helping Community Policy Group is tracking federal actions and promoting transformative investments in direct care, child care, and community and public health workers.
During the campaign, President Biden issued a "Plan for a 21st Century Caregiving and Educator Workforce" to invest $775 billion over ten years to increase the numbers and compensation of workers providing direct care, public and community health services, and child care. Candidate Biden also pledged to invest more than $20 billion annually in Title I schools and to increase the number of counselors, nurses, and mental health practitioners in schools.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 began these investments with substantial new funding for child care, public and community health, and public education.
Within the American Jobs Plan and the American Rescue Plan, the White House has proposed infrastructure investments in these essential workers, consistent with the campaign plans. Legislation within Congress has been introduced to strengthen child care and preschool, home and community based services, and the public health and community health workforce.
An outline of federal actions and proposals is provided in the "Summary of Federal Actions" document in the resources section om this web page.
In the American Rescue Plan Act and the earlier American CARES Act, Congress provided over $50 billion in funding to stabilize and support child care as and its essential workers. States have been encouraged to increase the compensation, training, and support for the child care workforce, as well as make it more affordable and available to working families.
As a core part of the American Families Plan, President Biden has proposed $225 billion in funding over the next decade to strengthen child care and make it more affordable and $200 billion to make preschool universally available to three- and four-year olds.
This includes substantial increases in the compensation to child care workers and preschool teachers, recognizing that these jobs have been undervalued and are held mainly by women.
The American Families Plan also calls for expanded paid family leave and establishes 7 percent of income as a ceiling for what parents are required to pay for child care under state subsidy programs.
The American Families Plan is part of infrastructure legislation being developed in Congress that may be enacted through the federal budget reconciliation process, which is not subject to filibuster.
During the campaign, President Biden called for investing $6.5 billion annually to finance 100,000 additional community health workers, largely in underserved and low-income communities. COVID-10 showed the need for a more robust public health workforce -- to respond to future public health challenges and to support residents in responding to social determinants of health.
Funding in the American Rescue Plan Act has started this process, and different legislation has been introduced to expand the public and community health workforce.
Such community health workers are viewed as key to making connections within communities through hiring and supporting workers with lived experiences and deep ties to the communities they serve. They also are seen as key to addressing health disparities and building resilience in underserved and low-income communities.
Much more detail about the proposals and federal activity around this workforce is available at: https://2020visionforchildren.com/child-health-activities.
In addition to expanding the child care and communtiy health workforces and raising their compensation, the Biden proposals for infrastructure include a major investment in home and community-based workers, direct care staff who provide in-home support and care in nursing homes and other institutional settings for persons with chronic health conditions or requiring additional health supports.
White House proposals call for $400 billion over the next decade to expand and increase the compensation and support for this workforce, particularly through expanding home and community-based services within the Medicaid program.
There also are Congressional proposals for actions to provide additional support, through federal income tax credits, for family members who provide support to enable members of the family to remain in their homes and communities.
The Iowa Helping Community Policy Group has contacted all members of the Iowa Congressional delegation and conducted virtual meetings with Iowa's U.S. Senators or their staff.
The Iowa Helping Community Policy Group also has provided Congressional members with information about how the proposals impact Iowa, specifically.
In June, a Policy Group representative provided testimony to an invitational forum on direct care workers hosted by Representative Cindy Axne.
The Policy Group's slides from its presentation to Senator Grassley and the testimony at the forum are in the resources section on this webpage