What I have said throughout this race is that my experience is what sets me apart from the field.
I believe that I am most equipped to go to Washington and make the machinery of government move to benefit the people of Rhode Island because I have already done it – in a way that is recent, relevant, and meets the moment, the moment were in as we choose a replacement for Congressman Cicilline in the U.S. House of Representatives.
I have helped advocate and implement massive pieces of legislation here in Rhode Island and on behalf of two presidents, most recently as a senior aide to President Biden.
All the while, I have never forgotten where home is and never forgotten my Rhode Island values.
Home is here in Rhode Island. Rhode Island is where my family lives, where my father owns a small business and where my mother has spent her career as a nurse. The time I spent as a child in the break rooms of nursing homes while my mom was working is something I think about a lot when I think about what needs to be done to protect Rhode Island’s seniors.
These are the concrete steps that I would take, in coordination with my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, to address the crisis facing our seniors here in Rhode Island and across the United States.
My top priority is doing the most I can, as quickly as I can, focused on the politics of the practical and actionable that is also ambitious; we must pursue all three objectives.
The first step of my “Protecting Rhode Island’s Seniors” plan relates to the solvency and long-term health of Social Security and helped to inform our decision of where to release this plan, right outside of the Social Security Administration in Pawtucket.
Extreme MAGA Republican attacks on programs like Social Security and Medicare are of particular concern to so many across the nation, but especially so many right here at home in Rhode Island.
I watched on TV from the White House as President Biden promised the American people that he would never allow Republicans to cut Social Security. There were cheers. There should be a consensus on this.
When I get to Congress, one of the very first bills that I will get to work on is the passage of Representative John Larson’s “Social Security 2100 Act.”
Senator Whitehouse has fought as the Chair of the Budget Committee to protect Social Security and ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share to extend the life of Social Security. He recently said, “Social Security is the bedrock of retirement security and the nation’s most effective anti-poverty program. It’s a lifeline for millions of seniors, their children, and people with disabilities.”
I look forward to working alongside him to advance legislation in both chambers to protect Social Security.
Representative Larson’s bill is a crucial investment in the infrastructure and health of Social Security. This bill raises taxes on the uber-wealthy and those who make over $400,000 per year while providing a tax break to the middle class, all while expanding the viability of Social Security until 2100, hence the name of the law.
The next thing we need to do is lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 60.
In 2021, Congresswoman Jayapal of Washington state introduced the “Improving Medicare Coverage Bill.” This legislation was supported by our very own former Congressman Cicilline. In May of 2022, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that if we lower the eligibility age to 60, Medicare would have over 13 million new people enroll in the system.
This is a popular idea. This is something we can get done. In Congress, I would work towards its passage.
Ultimately, I believe that the United States needs to offer a robust public option.
Now, let’s turn to what is known as the “care economy.”
We recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act. I remember standing on the South Lawn with people who helped to get that legislation done, people like Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Cicilline.
The law lowers healthcare costs for millions of Americans and makes the largest investment in combating climate change that our nation has ever seen. I saw first-hand President Biden’s commitment to getting this bill over the finish line.
What we see now are repeated attacks by Republican leadership to gut this bill, and in Congress, I would be a relentless defender of this legislation from those attacks.
We should not be attacking the ability of Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs.
We should not be needing to defend efforts to lower the cost of insulin for our seniors.
The Inflation Reduction Act was a huge step in the right direction, and in Congress, I will continue to work with President Biden, his Administration, and Democrats in Congress to make additional investments in the care economy.
Here is a statistic that may shock you: there are “40 million family caregivers” providing care that, if it were paid, would account for roughly $500 billion per year.
But, in fact, their labor is not paid.
Relatedly, according to the White House, there are nearly 8 million parents who are a part of the “sandwich generation–” those who care for a child under the age of 18 as well as serving as an unpaid caregiver to an adult.
5 million of the so-called sandwich generation are women. This is an issue of gender equity.
In combination with the fact that childcare also disproportionately falls on women, there are serious economic and societal consequences of not adequately addressing access to elder care, home healthcare, childcare, and other unpaid work that has traditionally pulled women away from the workforce and away from their ability to invest in themselves.
I will immediately get to work to identify representatives on both sides of the aisle who will work with me to do the following:
- Expand access to home healthcare and long-term care options for those on Medicare and Medicaid. This is so important, especially if you look at the demographics here in Rhode Island, and is an issue that we should be talking about much more.
- We also need to expand workforce training and opportunities for diverse populations to become trained to enter some of these crucial professions, and we need to pay them a fair wage.
These professions are disproportionately held by women and many are women of color. We must ensure that we pay them fairly.
I also commit to investing on the housing front in HUD’s Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program which provides funding to nonprofit organizations that develop and operate housing for seniors with very low incomes.
Providing aid to our seniors is a matter of urgent importance. And it is an issue that both Democrats and Republicans have to come together on.
Many people have their fates hanging in the balance of the decisions made in Washington.
As Democrats, we must lobby constituencies across the United States to put pressure on their congresspeople and to shame Republicans into acting: acting to protect America’s seniors as they age into their golden years.
The pursuit of happiness does not disappear once you start receiving Social Security and Medicare, and it is imperative that we provide all of Rhode Island’s seniors, and seniors across the country, the right to age with dignity, joy, and comfort.
That is why the final item of this plan is re-establishing the House Select Committee on Aging and making it permanent.
This is a big list of priorities because this is an ambitious agenda.
The proposal to establish a permanent House Select Committee on Aging was championed by former Congressman Cicilline, and it is something I would continue to pursue in Congress, working alongside a future House Speaker Hakeem Jeffries.
There are so many other issues facing our seniors: senior homelessness, senior mental health, and issues related to seniors and the extreme weather we are seeing as a result of climate change, and much more.
A permanent House Select Committee on Aging will allow us to keep our finger on the pulse of the issues facing our seniors and proactively develop policy to directly aid the wisest amongst us.
We must do right by our seniors. And as the next congressperson from the State of Rhode Island, I intend to lead the charge in advocating for those right here at home.