Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice and the co-director of Caring Across Generations was in Rhode Island yesterday to help with the announcement of the campaign to win Rhodycare, a family care insurance fund.
Under Rhodycare, “all Rhode Islanders pay into the system through a paycheck deduction and when it comes time to pay for childcare or eldercare you access your pooled contribution.”
Rhodycare is the Rhode Island state version of a national push for such a program like Caring Across Generations. Gupta started working about six years ago with Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance to help co-found the campaign.
Gupta said that the campaign was born out of a realization that “there wasn’t a comprehensive approach to how we really deal with the issues of care in our culture and in our society…
“One of the things we realized,” continued Gupta, “was that often the needs of families were pitted against the needs of the workforce. So when you set it up as workers versus families, no one really wins. So, our theory was that we need to build a movement of families, of caregivers, of people with disabilities, of aging adults who can together transform the way we care in America.”
Mike Araujo, executive director of Rhode Island Jobs With Justice, told the story of how he was forced to drop out of school to care for his father. Araujo had some supports to care for his father, but not nearly enough. Now, Araujo, like all working Rhode Islanders with children, is faced with ever increasing daycare costs of his children.
Daycare costs are “more than tuition at URI itself,” said Araujo. “Families are suffering.”
When families face the need to care for elders or children, said Araujo, “One family member takes on a larger, uncompensated role and another family member [because of additional work hours] loses contact at the same time…
“These are not good choices.”
Rhodycare, said Araujo, is a “trust fund that we can tap into, as Rhode Islanders, that will pay for at least a portion of that care.”
Araujo and Gupta presented some pretty stark numbers about family care in Rhode Island. “Approximately 134,000 family caregivers in Rhode island provide an average of 142 million hours of uncompensated care for an aging parent or loved one, with an estimated economic value of $1.78 billion per year. Women across the state make up the majority of unpaid family and underpaid professional caregivers, and bear the brunt of this financial crisis. With the oldest per-capita population in the country, Rhode islanders need elder care more than ever before. And as baby boomers reach retirement age and childcare costs rise, more people will struggle provide care for their families.”
Araujo envisions a multi-year campaign for Rhodycare.