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So Lanham funds were used to build and maintain physical child-care centers, pay and train the teachers inside them, and cover operating expenses for a new national network of affordable, quality child-care centers that were open to all, not just Rosies in factories. The mothers who enrolled their children in these centers weren’t just freed up to work during the war. The experience of accessible care that allowed them to seek employment left them more likely to work years after the centers closed.

If child care is infrastructure, then, it should be nearly self-evident that care for the elderly and disabled is, too. Children aren’t the only members of our families who require daily care. But we offer miserly support for those who need to secure and pay for it. Medicare doesn’t cover nursing home or assisted living stays, only Medicaid does, requiring families with resources to spend them down before they can get assistance with the exorbitant cost. Medicare also doesn’t cover in-home care, and not all state Medicaid programs cover it. Some of those that do cap the number of people who can get help, leaving people to languish on waiting lists for years.

So many family members simply have to care for disabled children or siblings, or aging parents or spouses, by themselves. Those who care for their spouses or parents are much less likely to work. The ones who try to hold on to a career miss more than a week of work each year, on average, thanks to these additional responsibilities.

Paid leave might seem like a counterintuitive plank in an infrastructure package given that it helps people stay away from work. But it does so when we are at our most vulnerable — when a new child arrives who demands constant feeding and attention, after a serious injury that leaves someone unable to work for long periods of time, or when a loved one lands in the hospital. Without paid leave, these events often explode people’s lives into unrecognizable bits, including their bond to their jobs.

Paid leave keeps that bond sealed. Studies in California, the first state with its own paid family leave system, have found that those who use paid leave are more likely to return to their jobs when their time off is over. Paid leave helps mothers in particular stay connected to their jobs before and after the arrival of a new child. On top of that, an analysis of more than 10,000 companies found that after they offered paid leave the majority had an increase in revenue and profit per each employee — in other words, it allowed workers to perform better.

The peace of mind that comes from knowing we can take time off without endangering our jobs or our livelihoods if life-changing emergencies arise allows us to devote ourselves to getting our work done. Yet the United States has fallen behind other countries in the share of women in the work force, not just because of a lack of child-care investment, but also because of a refusal to guarantee paid leave for all.

That elder care, care for the disabled, child care and paid leave enable the functioning of our economy is not the only reason the country should invest in them. Paid family leave improves child and parental health, which also lead to a better-functioning country and society. High-quality child-care facilitates children’s development. Disabled and elderly Americans deserve to live their lives with dignity.