Biden promotes ‘care economy’ at DC’s Union Station

President Joe Biden spoke on the “care economy” at Washington, D.C.‘s Union Station, saying that child care and senior care workers should be paid more and that the U.S. should guarantee paid leave for people to care for family members.

“You care workers represent the best of who we are as Americans,” Biden said to cheers from the crowd. “We look out for one another in America. We leave nobody behind.”

Biden was surrounded by supporters, some wearing T-shirts representing the Service Employees International Union, and signs reading “Care Can’t Wait.”

He also mentioned his administration’s investment in child care and proposals to boost pay for caregivers.

“All this helps families, and it grows the economy,” he said.

The event was held at Union Station because that was where Biden would arrive each morning when he commuted by train for 36 years from Delaware to Washington as a U.S. senator. He did so because his wife and daughter died in a car crash just after he was first elected, leaving him with two young boys to care for.

“I tried to figure out how I was going to raise my boys,” he said, explaining the reason for the commute. “I couldn’t afford a house down here [in Washington] and I couldn’t afford caregiving.”

Biden said that caregivers are heroes and that he has their back.

“My dad would say a job is about a lot more than a paycheck,” he said. “It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK.’”

But the cost of care is too high and the pay for care workers is too low, Biden said, leaving people to spend their retirement savings paying to care for loved ones or having to leave their jobs.

“We’re the only advanced economy in the world not to guarantee paid leave,” Biden said. “We’re going to change that.”

He promised to propose new rules to “strengthen staffing standards” at nursing homes and give home care workers a larger share of Medicaid payments. Another proposal would call for government-supported child care that would cost less than $10 per day per child, though that idea would need more Democrats in Congress in order to pass.

Biden also blamed Republicans for the expiration of the child tax credit, saying “we’ve got to expire a few of them politically” in order to revive it.

He called for a guaranteed 12 weeks of time off for employees to attend to family members.

“It’s past time America caught up with the rest of the world on paid leave,” Biden said. “We can afford to do it. We can’t afford not to do it.”

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The speech was briefly interrupted by a man who started yelling, leading Biden to yell back.

“You want to come make a speech or shush up, OK?” the president said, causing the audience to erupt with cheers and laughter. He then added, “I’m not messing around with him. He looks like he could take me.”

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