WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) reintroduced the Care Corps Demonstration Act to build and strengthen America’s caregiving workforce and help meet the growing demand for caregivers working with seniors and people living with disabilities. The lawmakers previously introduced the bill in the 114th Congress with then-U.S. Representative, now New Mexico Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The nation’s 65-and-older population is expected to almost double in size, from 49 million to 95 million Americans by 2060. By 2030, older Americans are expected to make up nearly 20 percent of the population and over the next ten years the United States is expected to require at least one million more direct care workers. Each year, 419,000 New Mexicans provide more than 274 million hours of unpaid family care to loved ones, a number that is projected to rise as the state’s population ages alongside nationwide trends.
The Care Corps Demonstration Act will address the country’s growing caregiving needs by placing volunteers in communities to provide vital assistance to help seniors and people with disabilities who need extra support to remain in their homes and live independently. For example, volunteers could help organize transportation and home repairs, deliver groceries, or provide internet assistance. Volunteers will receive health insurance and other benefits throughout the length of their service, along with a robust educational award that can be used to pay future education costs or loans and will encourage volunteers to pursue degrees, certificates, and trainings for health care professions, including caregiving and social services.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the gaps in our health care system, especially for seniors and Americans with disabilities,” said Udall. “But our health care system has been failing to keep pace with the number of people in need of care in New Mexico and across the country even before the current crisis, and Governor Lujan Grisham’s vision responds to this emerging reality. Each year, over 400,000 New Mexicans provide support and care to their family members or loved ones – care that is often unacknowledged and unpaid. This legislation will help value and honor the critical work of caregivers, while increasing the country’s caregiving capacity to help meet soaring demand. Just as importantly, it will help foster intergenerational relationships and empower those who need extra care to live independently. I’m excited to continue working on bold, innovative solutions like Care Corps to ensure that communities across New Mexico and the nation have access to the care and support they need to live with dignity.”
“As the first AmeriCorps alum in Congress, I know first-hand that there is no venture more rewarding than working to improve the lives of those around us,” said Heinrich. “We need to fill the gaps that will only grow as an aging population creates more demand for care. I am proud to support this legislation to give young adults and others a similar opportunity to address this need, while also helping the thousands of Americans who are already providing essential care for their family members. I will continue to support our nation’s caregivers and work to ensure all Americans, including seniors and individuals with disabilities, have the health care they deserve.”
“Seniors and people with disabilities deserve high-quality care and support that allows them to remain in their homes. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with the New Mexico delegation to authorize the Care Corps and address the national shortage of caregivers,” said Luján. “Care Corps will serve New Mexico’s seniors and individuals with disabilities by training the next generation of caregivers and helping them create lasting bonds in their own communities.”
"While I was working for a caregiving facility, I learned so much about the vital services caregivers provide to our seniors and disabled New Mexicans, but during the COVID-19 pandemic our healthcare system has been overwhelmed, the number of people needing care has increased, and our caregivers are stretched thin. I’m proud to work with Senator Udall and the delegation on the Care Corps Demonstration Act, so we can ease some of the strain on our caregivers and meet the growing demand for caregiving by adding more people to the workforce,” said Haaland.
“As New Mexicans, caring for those we love is part of who we are. As our health care system continues to be pushed to its limits and we face a growing need for caregivers, it is often our family members who step up to provide care. Care Corps recognizes the importance of taking care of our seniors and those living with disabilities by creating community-based volunteer positions in addition to providing opportunities for volunteers interested in becoming healthcare professionals,” said Torres Small.
The Care Corps Demonstration Act would:
- Authorize grants for local Care Corps programs at $10 million per year over five years;
- Place Corps volunteers in communities where they will provide services that help seniors and individuals with disabilities remain independent;
- Provide volunteers with health insurance and other benefits during their time of service, along with an educational award that can be used to pay education costs or loans;
- Help build the caregiving and health care workforce needed to meet the demand for services; and
- Create opportunities to form intergenerational relationships.
Udall, Heinrich and Luján also worked with then-Representative Lujan Grisham to secure $5 million during the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations cycle for a grant program based on the Care Corps bill that supports innovative, community based caregiving models. This program, the Community Care Corps Program, has awarded grants to organizations in 23 states, including New Mexico, to pursue potential caregiving models. More information about these projects and the grantees can be found here.