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Melinda Gates calls for a caregiving ‘czar’

December 4, 2020, 2:07 PM UTC
Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates Interview
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks during a Bloomberg Technology television interview in 2019. In a new op-ed, Gates says the U.S. needs a caregiving czar.
Michael Short—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Melinda Gates calls on the Biden admin to appoint a caregiving czar, Julia Cheek’s Everlywell is valued at $1.3 billion, and Melinda Gates poses the idea of a caregiving czar. Have a wonderful weekend.

Czar wanted. The pandemic has laid bare the shortcomings of the U.S.’s caregiving system. With schools operating remotely and daycares and long-term care facilities shuttered, women are filling the gaps, often risking or outright abandoning their careers to do so.

The crisis has prompted calls for a childcare bailout from the likes of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), who argues that without relief, childcare providers will fold during the pandemic, leaving parents with few options when they need to return to work.

Now the crisis has prompted another demand, this time from Melinda Gates, who argues President-elect Joe Biden should appoint a caregiving czar to urgently address the matter.

“By creating a new position to lead a multiagency caregiving response, he could ensure that, for the first time ever, the federal government is formally considering the needs of caregivers in all policymaking and legislation,” Gates wrote in The Washington Post.

On Day One of the new administration, the caregiving czar could focus on extending temporary paid-leave provisions for families, passing billions in funding for the crippled childcare industry, and providing additional resources to reduce the Medicaid waiting list for long-term care services, Gates says.

Beyond the practical importance of a caregiving czar, the position would also carry great symbolism. As Gates writes, the “czar” title was first used in 1918—President Woodrow Wilson’s “industry czar” oversaw WWI supplies. Since then, it’s come to signal that the issue at hand is of urgent, national importance. (Republicans chided President Barack Obama for having, in their view, too many czars; among them a drug czar, a compensation czar, and a car czar.)

Caregiving, as a critical economic engine, has been overlooked and taken for granted, likely because of who powers it. Much of the work is unpaid and many paid facets of it offer few job protections and poverty-level wages. If nothing else, the pandemic has proved it’s worthy of czar-level attention.

And as Gates, points out, the caregiving czar is another opportunity for a Biden administration first.

“Given how many Americans have caregiving responsibilities, you might assume that such a role already exists,” she writes, “but, in fact, it never has.”

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

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PARTING WORDS

"My husband does the laundry."

-German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after she was asked if she uses "smart technology at home" or turns "on the washing machine" herself.