CARING FOR PEOPLE WHO CARE FOR US
America’s workers are the backbone of this country and vital to our communities, particularly those individuals who care for us. From nurses to teachers to social workers to police officers to firefighters, the list goes on and on. These unsung heroes improve not only our quality of life but the health of our economy as well. Unfortunately many of them are underpaid, and some of them woefully so — among them home health aides, personal care attendants and daycare providers. My number one priority is to increase the wages for these critical caregivers.
Home health aides and personal care attendants provide lifesaving services at a fraction of the cost institutions charge for the same services. And the people receiving these services get to remain in their own homes which is what they want! With the savings provided from living at home, care recipients can contribute more to our economy and to their communities.
In Greater Minnesota any increase in caregivers’ wages would be an economic engine in the communities where the aides reside. Imagine, for example, a small town with a home for persons with disabilities. If six aides work there and each aide were to receive a weekly increase of $30, there would be an additional $180 a week flowing to local businesses. That is over $9000 a year in sales for a local grocery store or gas station! Conversely, if the same home for persons with disabilities were to go out of business because of a lack of staff, then the money the aides would spend would be lost as would be the local property taxes they would pay, money that could go directly into the community. Currently there are more than 9,000 open positions across the state. Let’s raise the salaries and fill them!
Daycare providers also provide an invaluable service, caring for our most precious family members and giving parents peace of mind. Without these caregivers, parents would be unable to go to work and our economy would grind to a halt. But daycare providers are greatly underpaid and, like home health aides, many are leaving the field, a devastating situation for our communities. So let’s fix the problem before we lose any more workers. Let’s pay providers a wage that allows them to take care of their own children in addition to ours. Put more money into their pockets and they will put more money into our economy.
REDUCING STUDENT DEBT
I remain committed to lowering student debt. Education should be an opportunity not a lifelong burden and right now too many young people are leaving school weighed down by loans. Consequently they put off starting families, buying houses or making other purchases until they can lower their debt to a manageable level, often working more than one job to make ends meet with their earnings going straight to a bank rather than into the local economy.
One place to start would to lower the cost of textbooks. Like prescription drugs, the price of textbooks has risen astronomically. When you consider that each class requires 2-3 books, and each student takes 5-6 classes a semester, over time this adds up to a small fortune! And textbook publishers, like pharmaceutical companies, have a captive market. One of the options might be to get guidelines for open educational resources as was done in Virginia.
Common sense must prevail when we talk about public safety. And talk about it we must unless we want to see more shootings. On any given day, 96 people in America are killed by guns. That’s more than 35,000 people a year! If this isn’t a crisis I don’t know what is.
This year I authored a bill to ban bump stocks and co-authored two bills to require criminal background checks and to allow family members or law enforcement officers to ask a court to deny a firearm to anyone who posed “a significant danger of bodily injury to self or to other persons by possessing a firearm,” legislation also known as the “red flag” bill. These are common sense solutions that will make our communities safer and I will continue to champion them until they pass!
IMPROVING OUR INFRASTRUCTURE
I remain committed to fixing our state’s infrastructure. We have bridges in disrepair, roads that need completing and aging water and sewer pipes that need replacing. No one I know lets their house fall apart before they do something to fix it. Neither should Minnesota. Let’s fund these projects and put people to work!