By Lily Bohlke - Public News Service

Advocates for home- and community-based services in Michigan urged Congress to build off state efforts and invest in what's become known as the "care economy."

The Biden Administration’s infrastructure package, known as the American Jobs Plan, includes $400 billion to expand access to Medicaid home- and community-based services for seniors and people with disabilities, and to strengthen the care workforce.

Kelly Garrett, Michigan state director for Care in Action, said making investments will help keep people in their homes and communities for longer than they would be otherwise.

"We need to pay our essential workers, our domestic workers, our care workers a livable wage," Garrett asserted. "Also, people that need care should be able to get cared for in place in their homes, or wherever they choose to be cared for."

Michigan's paid medical-leave law went into effect in 2019, and applies to any employer with more than 50 workers, but domestic workers often do not fit the criteria.

Garrett joined a roundtable with people who rely on home-based and community services, caregiver advocates and lawmakers. She argued more progress is needed, and the White House plan would support well-paying caregiver jobs with benefits and collective bargaining rights.

Women, and especially Black, brown and Indigenous women, are more likely to leave the workforce to care for a family member, which became all the more evident during the pandemic.

Garrett added care infrastructure, such as home and community-based services as well as child care and paid family and medical leave, are so important because everyone needs care at some point in their lives.

"Everyone's gonna have this situation," Garrett explained. "Either you're going to be the caregiver, or you're going to need to be cared for. It just happens. And so passing this bill allows people to age with dignity, and to be taken care of with dignity."

Home- and community-based services can look different for different people, ranging from meal services and transportation to doctors' appointments, or having a personal aide come in to help get ready for the day and manage their medicines, or speech or occupational therapy at home or at a community facility.

Garrett urged Michiganders to contact their lawmakers and let them know how urgently needed the legislation is.

Photo - (Jacob Lund/Adobe Stock)