WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — Medical workers have been hailed as the heroes of the coronavirus crisis, but some argue a key part of the U.S. healthcare system has largely been forgotten by its fellow Americans and passed over by Congress: family caregivers.
They are the family members, friends and neighbors that help Americans with disabilities or chronic conditions eat, bathe, dress and get the medical care they need.
“Family caregivers are really the core, the backbone of the healthcare system,” said Susan Reinhard, the senior vice president of AARP’s Public Policy Institute.
Roughly one in five Americans is a family caregiver and often do it for free on top of their full-time jobs.
“It’s been really hard for families to be able to work and care for someone,” said Grace Whiting, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving.
The CARES Act Congress passed in March gave $100 million to the National Caregiver Support Program for things like counseling, respite care, and training.
However, Whiting and Reinhard said family caregivers need more help.
Last week, Democrats in the House passed the HEROES Act.
“We provide more direct cash assistance,” said Rep. Kathy Castor, D-FL. “That’s what I hear from my neighbors.”
But this time, adult dependents would also be eligible for the $1,200 direct payments, something Reinhard said could make a big difference for these caregivers.
“That legislation should move forward frankly,” she said.
However, the bill is not expected to make any progress in the Senate.
While senators and the White House seem to be leaning toward additional payments to Americans, the negotiations over the next round of coronavirus relief continue.