When a person becomes severely ill or disabled, the American economy expects family members to step up to assist them with little-to-no financial support. This makes unpaid caregivers a vital and undervalued part of our economy. Fortunately, the Biden-Harris administration is proposing sweeping changes to federal tax and relief programs in order to recognize the contributions that unpaid caregivers make. Kate Washington, who has experienced firsthand how our country treats unpaid caregivers, writes in the New York Times:
The Biden-Harris campaign made an ambitious caregiving plan a key plank of its platform. Early signs from the new administration are promising. Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus emergency relief package includes measures benefiting caregivers: extending stimulus payments to cover previously overlooked adult dependents, tax credits, and paid family and medical leave. Some of these benefits would help family caregivers of all kinds; others specifically aid those tending people with Covid-19. Although pandemic relief is the most urgent priority, change must not stop there. The plan Mr. Biden rolled out during the campaign proposed an integrated approach to supporting child care, care for older people, paid care work, and family caregivers. Among other measures, it floated a $5,000 tax credit for unpaid caregivers, Social Security credits for those who must leave their jobs to provide care, and 12 weeks of guaranteed paid family leave.
These reforms would give a boost to women of color, who disproportionately work as paid and unpaid caregivers. It will also create millions of jobs in care work, which will become more in-demand as baby boomers age.
The plan would also offer wider access to home- and community-based long-term care and support services. Gaps in Medicaid coverage for these services have resulted in long waiting lists and made it harder for people to receive needed care at home. Such changes would clearly benefit both family caregivers and paid workers, who are disproportionately women of color. With few job protections, in-home workers have long had difficulty finding stable, well-paid work, a plight worsened by Covid-19.
According to the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey, an estimated 2.2 million children live in homes with adults who have been unemployed long-term for 27 weeks or more, and 42% of adults with children are having a hard time covering household expenses each month. Hardship rates are high across the nation, but they are particularly high for Black and Latinx families, who were more likely to suffer job loss due to the pandemic. Claire Zippel and Arloc Sherman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities discuss why it’s essential for America to invest in these families through SNAP and an expanded Child Tax Credit:
Providing support to children experiencing hardship now can make an important difference in their lives now and in the long term. Nutrition assistance, for example, can not only help with children’s immediate needs but can also lead to long-term improvements in health and longevity. And compelling evidence links income support with better outcomes from healthier birthweights and lower maternal stress to better academic test scores and higher rates of high school graduation and college entry. The dangers of failing to provide adequate support, on the other hand, are substantial. Even short periods of food insecurity pose long-term health and developmental risks for children. Housing insecurity contributes to stress on parents and children, and can result in frequent moving and disrupted schooling. Intense financial worries can interfere with parenting, adversely influence children’s mental health and behavior, and in some cases contribute to toxic stress, which is associated with measurable changes in brain structure, cognitive damage, and worse health.
States should also prioritize investments in low and moderate income households who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic through expansions in the Earned Income Tax Credit, and investments in state child tax credits.
Ending qualified immunity
Qualified immunity shields law enforcement officers from being sued for misconduct on the job, including unreasonable uses of force—a policy that has made it difficult to hold officers accountable for civil rights violations. Now, a subcommittee of the Louisiana House of Representatives has voted in support of removing that liability shield at the state level. Wesley Mueller of the Louisiana Illuminator has more:
The House Qualified Immunity Subcommittee of House Civil Law and Procedure voted unanimously to support the task force’s recommendation that “No element of qualified immunity shall be available to law enforcement officers as a defense to liability for claims brought under state law for wrongful death, physical injury, or personal injury inflicted by law enforcement officers through any use of physical force in a manner determined by a finder of fact in a judicial proceeding to be unreasonable.”
LSU Law Professor Raymond Diamond elaborated on the origination of qualified immunity.
Diamond said qualified immunity stems from Reconstruction Era federal court decisions that deliberately undermined civil rights legislation and the 14th Amendment’s promise of equal protection under the law. The task force proposes to limit qualified immunity under state law to hold police accountable for misconduct. Allowing civil lawsuits against individual police officers would make officers more conscious of their actions and behavior, Diamond said.
Helping schools recover
Nearly 1 in 3 public school students in Louisiana still rely on distance learning or a combination of in-person and virtual instruction. While distance learning has helped mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, experts fear that it may widen the achievement gap between low-income students and their wealthier peers. Louisiana is set to receive an additional $1 billion in federal aid for public schools. Many superintendents intend to use these funds to ensure students have what they need to catch up. Will Sentell has more, with The Advocate:
In the first round of federal aid, officials of the St. Bernard Parish School District focused on making sure students had Chromebooks and internet access, which has been a statewide problem. The district has 7,840 students, with 80% living in economically disadvantaged homes. Doris Voitier, superintendent of the district, said school officials are regularly assessing students to see who would benefit from summer school for reading and other basic skills. “We are going to have an extensive summer program,” said Voitier, who is also a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The district is getting $9.5 million.
Number of the Day
50 million – The number of Americans who are unpaid caregivers assisting adult family members and friends. (Source: AARP)