Democrats Are Working To Give The American People A Better Deal On Child Care
Access to high-quality, affordable child care is a growing concern for families across the country, especially as the number of working families with young children continues to increase. Today, 65% of children under age 6 have two working parents — more than double the number since 1970. This increased labor force participation has strengthened our economy in many ways, but the resulting demand for child care has made its costs staggering for most families.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, child care is considered affordable if it costs not more than 7% of a family’s income, but the cost of center-based infant care exceeds this threshold in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Only one state has affordable center-based infant care in the entire United States. That’s not good enough.
So Democrats have made providing access to child care was one of our top priorities. We made it a central pillar of our “Better Deal” economic agenda and, even though we are in the Senate minority, we fought for greater federal resources to offset the high cost of child care. I am proud to report that we delivered on that priority in the two-year budget deal reached earlier this year securing $5.8 billion to be invested in child care. The $2.37 billion approved for this fiscal year was the single largest increase to the Child Care Development Block Grant in the program’s history. This week, the Senate passed the next fiscal year’s Labor-HHS appropriations bill, which will provide another $2.37 billion for an additional year.
Unfortunately, some Republicans have suggested that trying to make childcare more affordable is an undue burden on taxpayers. Democrats believe differently. Access to high quality, affordable child care is a crucial economic issue. Access to affordable child care means working families save more for other expenses, like medical care, groceries, prescription drugs, and college. Access to affordable child care means working families need not upend their careers or have to make the difficult choice between full-time work and caring for a child. Access to affordable child care means a great deal to America’s working families, and for far too long we have not been doing our part to help offset the costs.
Already, we are seeing the impact of investing in child care. States are using the additional funding appropriated by Congress to help working families. States like Colorado and Maryland have significantly broadened the qualifications for eligibility to state-supported child care programs, providing more families with access to assistance. Texas is using the funds to provide care to an estimated 28,000 children who are on the state’s wait list. Louisiana and Mississippi cut their waitlist by 4,000 and 7,000, respectively. Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and 13 other states who have reported their activities thus far, have used the additional funding to increase reimbursement rates to child care providers, which not only increases quality but also helps those providers pay their workers a living wage.
Without significantly increasing our federal investments in childcare, we cannot improve access, achieve uniformly high quality care regardless of zip code, and make child care more affordable. So much of a child’s brain development happens before age 5, so what we do in those early years to support a child’s cognitive and social development is just as important as all other stages of education, and yet for years the federal government’s investments in early care and learning has not matched this reality. Democrats are working to give the American people a better deal on child care.