To ensure the nation recovers from the staggering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Joe Biden recently announced his American Families Plan that proposed sweeping, impactful changes.
The plan is the second part of Biden’s American Jobs Plan which not only includes plans to improve the nation’s infrastructure, but to infuse $400 billion into Medicaid home and community-based services for the elderly and disabled, and raising the salaries of care workers.
American Families Plan Benefits
Calling it an investment in our nation’s future, key highlights of the American Families Plan include:
- Help families afford childcare
- Provide paid family and medical leave
- Invest in universal preschool
- Recruit more teachers
- Assist current teachers earn certifications for specialties, such as special ed. and bilingual ed.
Although many lawmakers had pressured Biden to make changes to the SSI program, his American Families Plan did not address the issue. Supporters of the changes had hoped for an increase in SSI benefits, raising the beneficiaries’ asset limits and removing the marriage penalty.
Paid Family Leave is Long Overdue
During the pandemic, family caregivers carried the burden for providing care to those with developmental disabilities. Paid leave has long been advocated by caregivers and workers who themselves may have disabilities.
“Paid leave enables them to take the time they need so they don’t have to choose between their job and being there for their loved ones,” stated Bethany Lilly, senior director if income policy at The Arc. “It’s also extremely important for workers with disabilities who might need to take medical leave to address aspects of their disability or new diagnoses.”
The plan would allow as much as 12 weeks of paid household and medical leave for staff. Biden also seeks approval for the Wholesome Households Act. Employers may have to allow staff to accrue 7 days of paid sick leave yearly, which could be used to take care of a family member who is disabled or otherwise unable to care for themselves.
Universal Preschool for All Income Levels
A newly released White House Fact Sheet asserts, “Unfortunately, most children, and especially children of color and low-income children, do not have access to the full range of high-quality pre-school programs available to their peers. In addition, children with disabilities benefit from inclusive, accessible pre-school programs with their peers, and all children benefit when we create socio-economically diverse Pre-K classrooms where all students thrive.”
President Biden’s plans call for a $200 billion investment in universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds via a partnership with states.
Preschool would be available to families of all income levels, with states providing 50% of the funding. A key issue for many lawmakers, universal preschool will provide financial relief to those paying the high cost of childcare.
Additionally, the plan ensures that the federally funded preschool would make high-need areas a top priority and would a low student-to-teacher ratio and “developmentally appropriate curriculum.”
Enhancing the Teaching Workforce for Special Education
With its plans for universal preschool, the American Families Plan targets the expected demand for pre-K teachers by providing $900 million for training of special education teachers.
An additional $1.6 billion is earmarked so that current teachers who want to achieve certifications in needed areas such as special education can have access to the necessary training.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities has called President Biden’s plan “a bold and necessary step toward solving persistent inequities plaguing our nation.”
CEO of NCLD Lindsay E. Jones further asserts: “And the historic investment in strengthening and diversifying the teacher pipeline and increasing access to higher education through free college initiatives means millions more students can have an education that supports their growth and success.”
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