The White House recently announced the signing of a Executive order of President Biden containing a wide range of actions to improve the healthcare economy. The executive order includes more than 50 guidelines for nearly every cabinet-level agency to expand access to affordable, high-quality care and provide support for caregivers and family caregivers.
The administration’s actions come at a time when more and more employers and employees are calling for more investment to make childcare more affordable, and a congressional task force is currently pushing for the adoption of paid time off. From increasing productivity to boosting workplace morale, supporting healthcare providers is an increasing trend that has been shown to benefit business. Here are five ways guidelines in the Executive Order will support the healthcare economy.
1. Make childcare more accessible for working families: Many families struggle to find childcare they can afford. In 2019, more than three-quarters of working families seeking childcare reported difficulty finding both accessible and affordable care. This problem only became more difficult for families after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Executive Order directs the HHS Department to consider doing away with co-pay child care programs such as the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. In addition, directs federal agencies to determine which of their grant programs can support childcare for individuals working on federal projects.
2. Improving the quality of work for caregivers: Professional caregivers are among the lowest paid workers in the country, with child caregivers earning an average wage of less than $18 per hour. Head Start and Kindergarten teachers also lag behind the median salary of many similar occupations. The executive order directs HHS to take steps such as increasing pay and benefits for Head Start teachers and staff and leveraging Medicaid funding to ensure there are enough home health care workers to provide care to seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in Medicaid. The healthcare economy is an essential part of the American workforce, and improving it starts with supporting healthcare workers.
3. Providing support to working caregivers: Millions of Americans deal with responsibilities for caring for children and the elderly every day in addition to their jobs. This can negatively impact the physical and mental health of working caregivers who often lack access to much-needed support and resources. Unfortunately, it is women who feel these negative consequences the most, they make up almost two-thirds of informal carers and drop out of the workforce. The Executive Order directs HHS to consider an entirely new model of elder care that includes short-term assistance to give a primary caregiver a break, thereby easing some of the pressure on working caregivers and enabling them to work, enabling a more balanced care economy.
4. Decreasing inequalities in care provision and access to care: Aid workers, who are often disproportionately women of color, struggle with stagnant low wages and high turnover. The Executive Order will direct agencies to explore resources and existing grant programs to support these health care providers. Likewise, many minority groups often struggle to find childcare available in their area at affordable rates. About half a million Native American and Alaska Native children may need childcare so their parents can work, nearly half of whom are under age 5. for applying for and building or improving facilities for young children. Access to care allows more of these groups to stay in work and creates more economic empowerment.
5. Improve access to care for veterans: Veterans are consistently among those who struggle to access affordable long-term care and home care, many of whom need it. The Executive Order directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to give veterans more control over their care. The VA is also being directed to consider expanding its Veteran Directed Care program, which gives veterans a budget to hire personal care, including from family members.
Both business owners and their employees know that better access to affordable childcare and aged care is essential to creating a balanced and productive workforce. The administration’s actions will provide much-needed support to many working caregivers, allowing them to focus on their work and health, and less on caring responsibilities.