Child care legislation aims to make services more affordable, providers’ wages livable


DELMARVA – U.S. lawmakers are pushing a measure that they say would strengthen families. The bill would make child care more affordable, and increase wages for providers. Adding, the legislation won’t just benefit families and workers, but the entire U.S. economy as a whole.

Child Care for Working Families Act

The Child Care for Working Families Act would cap child care expenses at 7% of working families’ incomes. It would allow grants for child care providers to boost wages, and increase access to pre-k education. The measure also supports full-day head start programs.

“The reason that we’re hearing about child care everywhere is because this crisis is affecting everyone. Not just families that live in cities or rural areas. It is affecting everyone,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray of Washington.

Lawmakers say the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the situation.

“Our economy is still forcing workers to choose between their jobs and caring for their children,” said House Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Robert Scott of Virginia. “Whether it’s the high cost of child care and pre-school, the failure to invest in early childhood care and education, it continues to push millions of Americans out of the workforce.”

Child Care Crisis Costs U.S. $122B Annually

Sen. Murray says half of American children live in “child care deserts;” places where affordable, reliable child care is not readily accessible. Adding, one in three businesses attribute short staffing to lack of child care coverage. Overall, the child care crisis is costing the U.S. economy $122 billion in losses every year.

“When parents cannot find, and afford child care, they’re forced to make impossible choices, leave their job, and stay out of the workforce,” said Sen. Murray.

Rep. Scott says action on this bill is needed sooner, than later.

“The need to overhaul the child care system is only growing, especially since our job market continues to grow at a record pace. Without investments in the child care economy, these jobs will remain unfilled,” said Rep. Scott.

“Child care is essential to our economy as our roads and bridges,” added House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark of Massachusetts It is not an accessory; it is not a luxury. It is the glue that holds our economy together.”

Livable Wages for Child Care Providers

The bill comes at a time when lawmakers say child care providers are operating on razor-thin margins.

“The only way that child care professionals can be paid a reasonable wage, and child care facilities can charge fees that are affordable, is for there to be public funding,” said Rep. Scott.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York says tackling income inequality is a big part of the equation.

“It’s also important to deal with income inequality,” said Sen. Schumer. “One of the best ways to deal with income inequality is take people who care for children, who care for the elderly – our precious human resources – and at least pay them a decent salary.”

And, the impacts of low wages in child care are not equal, says Sen. Murray. “Child care workers, the vast majority of whom are women of color, are being paid poverty wages and being forced to leave their job for better-paying work elsewhere,” she said.

“Peace of Mind” for Families

Senator Bob Casey says the decision is about investing in learning, and earning.

“The federal government has to step up, finally at long last, and put dollars on the table so that the families that are struggling to find affordable child care and reliable pre-school can have some peace of mind.”

Annie Reyes is a child care provider in Baltimore. She says she knows all too well how the child care crisis impacts Maryland families.

“The unfortunate reality is that many parents are unable to return to the workplace or the workforce due to lack of affordable, reliable care for their children,” said Reyes. “At Downtown Baltimore Child Care, alone, we have a waiting list that is longer than a year and a half. I have families who have applied for slots when they start planning to get pregnant because of how difficult it is to secure a seat.”

Tiffany, a mom and social worker says she faced some harsh realities when she moved from her state to find more affordable child care.

“Without stable, reliable care, I was forced to leave my job – 20 years as a social worker – for a remote position,” said Tiffany. “Our search was further complicated by [our son] Ruben’s extra needs. He has Down’s Syndrome, and some providers would not commit to caring for him at all.”

More Information

A fact sheet on the legislation is available here. Bill text is available here. Watch Thursday’s press conference here.

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