1 of 3 | Speaking from the Rose Garden at the White House on Tuesday, President Joe Biden issued a series of sweeping executive actions aimed at improving care for young children, the elderly and people with disabilities. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
April 18 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden issued a series of sweeping executive actions Tuesday aimed at improving care for young children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
Biden's orders will immediately take effect and will direct federal agencies to identify which of their grant programs are capable of supporting child care and long-term care including for individuals working on federal projects, the White House said in a statement.
The president explained the plans in a speech from the White House Tuesday afternoon.
"The executive order I'm about to sign is the most comprehensive set of actions any administration has taken to date to increase access to high-quality childcare and long-term care and support for the caregivers," Biden said. "Under this order, almost every federal agency will collectively take over 50 actions to provide more peace of mind for families and dignity for care workers and -- who deserve jobs with good pay and good benefits."
The orders aim to make a wide spectrum of care more affordable while boosting the pay of caregivers, improving job quality for care workers, and expanding the overall options for care across the country.
The executive actions will seek to make childcare and long-term care more accessible and affordable for families, including military families, and improve access to home-based care for veterans.
Funds will go toward boosting job quality for early educators, enhancing job quality for long-term care workers, and supporting family caregivers.
The initiative includes efforts to advance the rights of domestic workers while engaging with communities and easing the construction of early childhood facilities for tribal communities.
Biden's unilateral moves were prompted as childcare costs increased 26% over the last decade and more than 200% since 1993, according to the White House, which also noted costs were up 40% for elderly and disability care.
"The result is many Americans -- particularly women -- stay out of the workforce to care for their families, making it hard for businesses to attract and retain a skilled workforce and for the economy to grow," the White House said while pointing to $290 billion in losses each year due to the lack of affordable childcare.
At the same time, low wages and less-than-desirable benefits packages were not attracting good job candidates to the childcare industry, leading to high turnover rates, the White House said.
"No one should have to choose between caring for the parents who raised them, the children who depend on them, or the paycheck they rely on to take care of both," Biden said.
AFSCME President Lee Saunders applauded the executive order signed by the president, calling it a "milestone" in the mission to increase access to care and compensation for caregivers.
"For too long, the care workforce, made up disproportionately of women of color, has been undervalued and underpaid," Saunders said in a statement.
"This executive order will help us reverse course. By instructing federal agencies to improve wages and working conditions in child care and long-term care, President Biden is setting a new standard for private industry and state and local governments to follow."
The administration has already invested more than $60 billion in the care economy through the American Rescue Plan, including $39 billion to help childcare providers and to provide childcare workers with higher pay, bonuses, and other benefits, the White House said.
Another $25 billion has helped states strengthen Medicaid home care programs, including more than $9 billion in spending to boost wages for home care workers.
Past deficiencies in federal funding have impacted at least 53 million American caregivers, many of whom are women of color, the White House said. More than 5 million are caring for disabled service members or veterans -- and many face challenges due to a lack of financing, training and support, and nearly no opportunity for respite.
As part of his 2024 budget proposal, Biden also called on Congress to support high-quality, affordable childcare, preschool, and long-term care.
Biden's plan includes $600 billion over the next decade to expand access to high-quality, affordable child care and free, high-quality preschool; and another $150 billion over the next decade to improve and expand Medicaid home care services.