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“Throughout our history, public investment in infrastructure has literally transformed America, our attitudes as well as our opportunities, and propelled us into the future,” President Joe Biden said speaking to Congress about his American Jobs Plan.

Major infrastructure investments such as the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highways changed America into the prosperous economic superpower that we have become. The American Jobs Plan addresses the necessary improvements we need today to boost our economy and repair our decaying infrastructure, as well as providing millions of jobs repairing our roads, bridges, water systems and updating the electrical grid to more ecological and forward-thinking means of producing power.

But that is not all. The American Jobs Plan addresses another critical part of building our economy for the future. Here in West Virginia, 1 in every 5 people was over 65 in 2019. That number has grown and is growing, and with it, a desperate need for the health care system to be prepared, especially in the area of home health care and community-based services that our seniors will need.

Not all health care issues require or should lead to a stay in the hospital or placement in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Many people, seniors and people with disabilities want to be independent and live at home. Unfortunately, most families do not have the pensions or savings to pay for the home health services that would make this possible. And many family members cannot take on the responsibility of providing care for a loved one because they work and have no paid leave.

Home health care providers are having a very hard time finding workers.

It is a field of predominantly women, working for abysmal wages while expected to take on the responsibility for the health and safety of our loved ones. These important positions come with few if any benefits like health insurance or sick days. This lack of concern and respect for those who care for our family members is causing a crisis across the country. People cannot access the care they need because there are fewer and fewer people prepared to work in a field that pays less than food service or retail sales.

The president proposes investing $400 million in home health care jobs. He wants to use this money to invest in better training and higher pay for the workers to make their jobs more attractive to potential employees. This is essential to meeting the present and growing demands of the 10,000 Americans a day who turn 65.

We urge our members of Congress to stand up for The American Jobs Plan and to fight for the plan’s investment in home and community-based care. This is good economic medicine for West Virginia. It will help West Virginians continue to work. And it will help create a new cadre of direct care workers who are respected and make enough wages to sustain their own families.

Kim Jones is coordinator for Health Care All — Cabell County and a health care advocate and organizer.

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