Letter to Vice President Biden and Senator Harris
Election Action for Caregivers
Dear Vice President Biden and Senator Harris:
We are unpaid family caregivers — of children, people with disabilities, elders, and veterans — as well as others concerned about caregiving and poverty. We hail from all across the country, live in rural, suburban and urban areas and are of many races. Some of us have paid jobs and some work full-time at home. Some of us are elders giving and receiving care and striving to age in place.
According to Rosalynn Carter’s Institute for Caregiving, there are more than 53 million unpaid family caregivers in the US who are “an essential force on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.” In addition, more than 11 million US parents — or 18% — are stay-at-home parents, according to the Pew Research Center. These millions, if incentivized to vote, could make the difference in the election outcome, including but not only in swing states.
We are working to rally caregivers and those receiving care to come out and vote. Your support for the following policies would be a boost and incentive for these voters.
We respectfully request that you:
— Extend your support for the American Family Act — which calls for fully refundable child tax credits (AFA S690) — beyond the Covid-19 emergency. We are pleased that you, Senator Harris, are a co-sponsor of the AFA. The AFA will help not only middle-class caregivers of children, but also those of us who don’t earn much, if any, income. It will lift 38% of children out of poverty. (See NY Times article about bipartisan support for AFA.)
— Amend your proposal for a $5000 tax credit for unpaid family caregivers to make it fully refundable so no caregiver is excluded. As it stands now, it is not fully refundable so it can only benefit those who bring in a paycheck and/or whose income is high enough to pay taxes. This excludes the most impoverished and vulnerable caregivers. Family caregivers are, like the population, in the majority white. However, Black, Brown and other caregivers of color work even longer hours — half do 30 or more hours a week of unpaid caregiving.
— Support/endorse the Worker Relief and Credit Reform Act (WRCR HR5271) introduced by Rep. Gwen Moore (WI) and Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH), both members of the Congressional Black Caucus. This act redefines work to include caregiving and being a student, thus making mothers, other unpaid caregivers and low-income students eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
— Amend your proposed child care tax credits to include families caring for children at home, not only those putting children in daycare. As mothers and caregivers, our choices for what is right for us and our children and families must be supported.
— Extend social security credits to include those who are not in or who take time out of the waged workforce to care for children, currently called “zero years”.
— In addition to your long-term care proposals, support the authorization of Medicaid and Medicare dollars to pay family caregivers, not just to pay for institutional care. Include a mandate that the homes of low-income people on Medicaid not be used as collateral for services provided. Passing on a home to a family member is an important wealth transfer; for low income families, and in particular for Black families, it is often the only way to pass on wealth.
Why a fully refundable tax credit?
Fully refundable tax credits help alleviate poverty, and acknowledge the vital, essential work of unpaid caregivers. They enable caregivers to receive this credit even if they don’t have an income, don’t owe taxes or if their income is too low to pay taxes. Those who do owe taxes get a refund check if the amount of the tax credit exceeds what they owe.
A fully refundable $5000 tax credit for all caregivers would go far with attracting your natural constituencies as well as suburban and rural women voters who may be of two minds about whom to support, or even whether to vote at all. It is a unifying proposition that appeals to women, including mothers struggling with poverty and/or financial dependence trying to protect their children as well as with middle-class housewives, whatever their race or party affiliation, if any.
Family caregivers have gotten plenty of lip service, and of course, we love our families, but love doesn’t pay the rent, and we cannot leave abusive relationships if we have no money of our own. Those of us on welfare are attacked and disrespected, even though we may work the hardest to survive. Ironically, Covid-19 has brought society’s dependence on caregivers to the fore.
Money available through tax credits also speaks to the fury and despair at the growing income gap between billionaires and the 50% of the population who, according to the Poor People’s Campaign — A National Call for Moral Revival, are struggling with low or very low income. Recognizing unpaid caregiving would also be a boost to paid caregivers such as homecare and domestic workers. It would also assist caregivers who are un-housed or formerly incarcerated or both. And it would reinforce to potential voters who are struggling financially, that you are on their side.
Vice President Biden, we know that growing up, your family faced the challenges of being low wealth, at one time living in subsidized housing, and that you were thrust into the role of caregiver upon the tragic deaths of your wife and daughter. We were encouraged that you participated on at least two occasions in events organized by the Poor Peoples Campaign, in which many of us are active, and whose Jubilee Platform calls for a Care Income. We were pleased when you said: “I want to be part of your movement.” With this background, we hope that you will indeed endorse the above bills and make your tax credit proposal fully refundable.
We will work hard to illuminate proposals that value and resource all unpaid family caregivers and that value the people they care for, and we will amplify these proposals in the election season. This will bring in sectors of voters who have been overlooked.
Margaret Prescod, Global Women’s Strike/US co-coordinator and Women of Color/GWS
Peggy O’Mara, former editor and publisher Mothering magazine
for Election Action for Caregivers
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 267–636–0508