Question #1: The District faces a crisis over the lack of adequate numbers of well trained, well compensated direct health care workers—the paid caregivers serving residents who want to age in place in their own homes or in assisted living facilities. Obstacles include the lack of targeted recruitment strategies, insufficient free training programs, lax oversight of training, inadequate pay, for-profit placement agencies with little accountability, and confusing and insufficient reimbursement and regulatory frameworks. How do you propose to address this problem?
Question #2: Affordable, community-based housing options are needed for older adults in the Capitol Hill community. These include affordable senior housing, senior housing with staff support, adult day health centers, and longterm and assisted living facilities. There are a variety of options available in northwest DC, but limited or no options east of N. Capitol Street. How do you plan to address this need?
Response from Mónica Palacio, Independent:
Answer to Question 1: Under my leadership and with our current health crisis with COVID-19, I will prioritize designating direct care workers as “essential workers” to give them access to PPE, guaranteed health insurance and sick leave, providing access to testing, and lastly, enhancing wage support and providing hazard pay. The large majority of these workers are women, disproportionately of color and/or immigrants, and they are middle age or older, which puts them at higher risk of COVID-19. I have heard endless stories of how these workers feel overlooked, often deprioritized, expendable, overworked and underappreciated. It is unacceptable that these workers who provide services for some of the most vulnerable communities in the District are treated this way. We also need funds to pay them while they receive training and certification so they can sustain themselves and their families as well.
Answer to Question 2: We must do more to meet the needs of seniors who are home-bound, facing health crises and more isolated than ever during the COVID-19 crisis. The District’s population of people over 65 has increased from 62,392 in 2005 to 79,016 in 2016, or a 27 percent increase in 11 years according to the DC Policy Center. We need dedicated funding to make seniors living in their own homes safer, we must fund additional home health care visits, meal distribution and accessible telehealth systems for seniors that are home-bound. Seniors must be included and prioritized in terms of rent assistance and eviction prevention programs. Over the next ten years, the District’s population will continue aging and we must increase investments in all the systems I have listed above.