ST. PAUL — At a Thursday, July 23 virtual campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Minnesota lawmakers touted the former-vice president's policy plan for child care and home- and community-based care.
As part of his recently released and wide-ranging economic plan, Biden has floated a number of proposals to boost the care-giving industry for care workers and operators, as well as the families who utilize them. The plan, totaling at $775 billion over 10 years, focuses on fair compensation for child-, home- and community-care workers, expanding access to child care with expanded tax credits and subsidies for parents, closing gaps in Medicaid coverage for care services and more.
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., who made an appearance at the Thursday campaign event, told Forum News Service in a phone afterward that "we have a care-giving crisis in this country" that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since been exacerbated. She said child- and home-care workers are underpaid, and there are large swaths in rural America that do not have accessible child care centers or assisted living facilities.
State Sen. Melisa Franzen, D-Edina, said at Thursday's round-table that the country and state's care-giving gaps are "about basic human rights and decency."
"And it’s also about family," she said. "A lot of us either know someone with a disability, or an elder, or we ourselves might be in need of home-care support in the future due to an illness. We can’t ignore the basic notion of caring for our neighbors and being the voice for a population of our state that many times is left behind."
Franzen and Smith noted on Thursday's call that those underpaid care workers are predominantly women and women of color. Smith elaborated on a later call that previously, women were often expected to care for their own families, unpaid. Now, as women have entered the workforce, that has shifted. But professional caregivers still see low wages today because they are "undervalued," she said.
As for the families who need care, Smith said it is often unattainable, either geographically or financially. Care centers can be few and far between in rural Minnesota, or competitive and expensive in the metro, she said. She said childcare costs, specifically are "a terrible burden" for working families, which could be eased by tax credits or subsidies.
"In Minnesota, it costs more to send a child to a good-quality childcare center than it does to send your student out to the University of Minnesota," she said. "It becomes unaffordable."
As for other home- and community-based care, Smith said closing the Medicaid coverage gap can help families, as well as the providers. And in rural areas with fewer facilities, expanded access to at-home care can bring the care to the families, rather than make them travel far to get it, she said.
Following Thursday's campaign event, Republican National Committee Spokesperson Preya Samsundar shot at Biden's overall economic plan, saying its federal taxes and jobs outcomes won't appeal to Minnesota voters.
"After benefiting from years of low unemployment, rising wages, and the chance to be part of the great American comeback, Minnesotans won’t hesitate to cast their vote for President (Donald) Trump in November," Samsundar said.
Minnesota has the longest-running streak in the nation of supporting Democratic presidential candidates, but after coming within two percentage points of Hillary Clinton in the state in 2016, Trump's reelection team is eager to snap that streak.
Smith closed the Thursday virtual campaign event with a plea for participants to get involved: "Minnesota is the home of close elections. Never forget that."