WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden announced a sweeping new plan Tuesday that aims to fundamentally shift the way American families care for each other, both at the beginning of life and at the end.
Dubbed the "21st Century Caregiving and Education Workforce" plan, Biden's proposal would invest $775 billion over 10 years to rebuild and fortify the nation's caregiving economy, focusing on daycare in early childhood, in-home elder care and long-term care for the disabled.
Speaking in New Castle, Del., Biden said he knew firsthand what it was like to struggle to afford child care, as well as what it was like to care for aging parents at home in the last months of their lives.
"I was a single parent for five years after my wife and daughter were killed and my two boys were badly injured," said Biden, recalling the deadly 1972 car crash in which he lost his wife and daughter. "Even though I had a lot more support than a lot of people going through tough times today, it was hard. It was hard," he said.
"We cared for our parents at the end. My dad was months in hospice in our home, same with my mom," Biden said, adding that his whole family had cared for his eldest son, Beau Biden, before he died of brain cancer in 2015.
"If we truly want to reward work in this country, we have to ease the financial burden of care that families are carrying," Biden said, adding that to do that "for more families going forward, we have to make long-term federal investments."
The first thing Biden pledged to do was provide emergency funding to state, local and tribal governments, enabling them to keep struggling child-care centers and home-care workers afloat throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Both child-care and elder-care providers have been especially hard hit by the deadly virus, as millions of families have opted not to send their children to daycare for fear of infection, and older Americans have chosen to isolate themselves to reduce risk.
Beyond the emergency coronavirus funding, Biden's longer-term plan is comprised of three main planks:
The Biden campaign has so far provided few specifics as to where all this money would come from. But a senior campaign official told reporters a Biden administration would take aim at so-called like-kind exchanges, which allow investors to defer paying taxes on the sale of commercial real estate if the capital gains are reinvested in another property. The official also said they would prevent investors with incomes over $400,000 from using real estate losses to lower their income tax bills.
The first part of the plan is aimed at expanding care for children between birth and five years old. It includes sliding-scale subsidies and tax credits to help working families afford child care, funds universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds, and incentivizes employers to build child-care centers in the workplace.
Earlier in the campaign, Biden also pledged to provide up to 12 weeks of guaranteed paid family and medical leave, which is similar to what governments in other developed nations do.
The second part of Biden's plan is designed to expand care options for the elderly and disabled, especially community-based and in-home care.
Here, Biden would allocate a total of $450 billion, which would be used in part to increase Medicaid funding to states, with the goal of eliminating the 800,000-person waiting list for community based and in-home care.
The plan would also fund programs to create 150,000 new jobs for community health workers, invest in innovative new models of long-term care outside of traditional institutions and nursing homes, and establish a nationwide Public Health Jobs Corps capable of immediately mobilizing to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The third piece of the plan addresses working conditions and pay for those who provide both early child care and elder care in much of the nation — workers who are disproportionately women and people of color.
For these workers, the Biden plan would raise wages, enhance and protect their right to form labor unions and bargain collectively, and would expand opportunities for caregiving workers to get professional training and advance their careers.
Biden also pledged to sign into law the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, a bill introduced in the Senate last year by Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who is one of several senators on the short list to become Biden's vice presidential running mate.
President Donald Trump has yet to unveil a specific plan to address child care and family leave, although the issue has drawn attention in the past from Trump's daughter and senior White House aide, Ivanka Trump. In December of last year, the White House even held a summit on child care and paid leave, at which Trump promised to "really help" working parents. "We're going to help them, and we're going to help them a lot," Trump added.
But like so much else about Trump's presidency, the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing recession this year appear to have sidelined any White House plans to address the high cost of child care.