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Commerce Secretary Says Aging Population Will Hit US Like ‘Ton of Bricks’

July 14, 2021 by TWN Staff

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Monday that the United States’ aging population will hit the economy “like a ton of bricks” without increased federal aid for at-home elder and disabled care.

Raimondo made the comments during an interview with Reuters, in which she also said President Joe Biden has sought, but so far failed to get enough support from fellow Democrats to secure $400 billion to address the issue.

Biden was scheduled to have lunch with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

If Congress fails to act on the president’s request, Raimondo said during the interview, it would harm the U.S. economy by making it difficult for women – who fell out of the workforce by the millions during the COVID-19 pandemic – to return to work or remain in the workforce.

Currently, 16.5% of the U.S. population of 328 million people, or 54 million, are over the age of 65, the latest census shows. By 2030, that number will rise to 74 million. The number of people over the age of 85, who generally need the most care, is growing even faster.

Biden in March proposed boosting Medicaid, the federal medical program for lower-income Americans, by $400 billion over a decade to fund at-home care for elderly and disabled people, and increasing wages for caregivers. 

He remains committed to that $400 billion figure, Raimondo said.

She said details of the pending reconciliation bill – a Democrats-only budget measure that will include parts of Biden’s spending plans not included in a pared-down bipartisan infrastructure bill – were still being worked out.

But not all Democrats are on board for the increased care spending, she said.

Raimondo said 1.5 million women still had not returned to the workforce after exiting during the pandemic to care for children whose schools had closed, and elderly and disabled relatives.

“It is a crisis,” she told Reuters. “The president’s behind it and most Democrats are behind it. We’re going to work to get the rest of them behind it. But if we don’t, we’re going to stay at it, because … it’s an untenable situation.”

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