U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), along with Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), are urging the Biden administration to include at least $700 billion over the next 10 years for long-term, structural investments in universal child care in the American Families Plan.
Child care accessibility is a critical issue in California. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 6 in 10 Californians lived in a child care desert with limited access to care, and thousands have been forced to close during the pandemic.
“As the pandemic has made clear, child care is essential infrastructure that makes all other work in our country possible. High quality child care also has long-lasting benefits for young children’s development,” wrote the lawmakers. “We believe this is a generational opportunity to invest in affordable, quality care for all children who need it, and we urge you not to let it go to waste.”
The American Rescue Plan included more than $40 billion for child care programs. However, it is not a long-term solution to the lack of affordable, high quality child care for working families. Child care providers, who already operated on razor-thin margins, have experienced closures, reduced enrollment, and increased operating costs throughout the pandemic. By one estimate, the combined relief funds are enough to fill this revenue gap for less than six months.
The American Families Plan, the lawmakers write, presents an opportunity to transform this broken system into one that is sustainable for families and providers over the long run. The plan should include making child care an entitlement for every family who needs it, capping out-of-pocket costs for families at no more than 7% of income, and raising payment rates for providers to ensure that they are paid a living wage with benefits, equivalent to other educators with similar credentials.
This investment would have lasting positive effects, not just on children and families, but on the economy at large. A recent study from the National Women’s Law Center and the Center on Poverty and Social Policy found that providing affordable, high-quality child care to every family that needs it would increase the number of women with young children working full time by 17%, narrow the pay gap between women and men, and increase women’s lifetime earnings by nearly $100,000 on average, with a corresponding increase in their savings and Social Security benefits.
“The American Families Plan presents an historic opportunity to not only recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, but also to build a stronger caregiving economy for women and families across the country. Providing affordable, quality care for every child and family who needs it would create jobs, increase productivity, and have lifelong benefits for children’s development and growth. We urge you to prioritize investments in a stronger child care system in the American Families Plan to ensure that women and families are not left behind in our recovery,” the lawmakers concluded.