Biden seeks to start undoing generations of inequity in infrastructure investment

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Biden’s plan would quadruple federal support for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) to boost minority-owned manufacturing and small and medium-sized businesses. It carves out 40% of the funds for climate investments for underserved communities. It also invests in the Black, brown, and AAPI workers—predominantly women—who do some of the most essential and thankless work in our society, like caring for the elderly and disabled.

Over the next eight years, Biden’s plan will spend about $400 billion on home- and community-based care to, in part, lift the wages of care workers, who are predominantly low-paid, female, and not white. It’s also intended to address the ballooning population of seniors, which is expected to nearly double by 40 million more people by 2050. In the next 30 years, the elderly population—those over 85—will close to triple. According to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the median salary for home-care workers is about $17,200/year. “We have the largest older population we’ve ever had and really no infrastructure in place to support dignified care and services. And the care workforce we have is shockingly undervalued,” said Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations, which has been working with the administration on this plan.

“I talked to home-care workers throughout the pandemic who continued working for poverty wages—without sick leave—and had to pay out of pocket for [personal protective equipment]. Many have died of covid,” Poo said. “It’s been a really devastating time for this group of essential workers.” LaTonya Jones-Costa, 48, is one of these undervalued workers as a home health aide in Georgia. She makes $10/hour preparing meals, helping seniors and disabled people with their medications, and running errands for them. She can’t afford health insurance for herself. “I could go into another field and make more money,” Jones-Costa said, “but who would take care of the people I leave behind?”

Biden’s plan also includes more than $5 billion to support community-based violence prevention programs. “When we had the opportunity to study this further, to look at the scope of the need, the extent of the potential for community organizations to absorb additional resources, and heard the appeal of the community leaders who have been struggling in the trenches for years without much recognition, without sufficient resources doing vitally important work, we were persuaded that this was a very worthwhile investment and one we were proud to make,” Susan Rice, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, told NPR.

“This could truly be transformative to the neighborhoods and the communities where these dollars are invested in,” said Greg Jackson of the Community Justice Action Fund. “We feel really confident that once these dollars are applied, and these programs—many of which have been working for decades—are properly resourced, they’ll be able to turn the tide on this cycle of violence.”

This is a perfect part of an infrastructure bill, Erica Ford of the organization LIFE Camp told NPR, because it’s an effort “that is going to rebuild the roads and the blocks that many of our children died on … Because recovery is real, recovery for our people is real,” Ford said. “And yes, it’s jobs, but it’s a lot of hope, and therapy, and services to help heal from the generation of death and destruction.”

For Republicans—looking at you, Mitch McConnell— who argue that this all a “Trojan horse” and a “liberal wish list,” Biden has an answer:


“If Republicans say the 400,000 homes and schools and daycare centers that have lead pipes delivering water to their doors—they say we shouldn’t be doing that? What do you think would happen if they found out all the lead pipes were up in the Capitol? Every time they turned on the water fountain? […] I think the Republicans’ voters are going to have a lot to say about whether we get a lot of this done.”