Democratic Women’s Caucus Leads Letter to President Biden Urging Prioritization of Child Care Relief and Recovery in Reconciliation Packages
Washington, DC – Today, 54 Members, led by Democratic Women’s Caucus (DWC) Co-Chairs Congresswomen Jackie Speier (CA-14), Lois Frankel (FL-21), and Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Vice Chair Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) sent a letter calling on President Biden to include $100 billion in reconciliation packages to not only stabilize child care for families and early educators, but also lay the groundwork for moving toward universal child care and early learning.
“[E]ven before the pandemic, a child care crisis was unfolding across our nation, making the sector vulnerable to collapse. Child care was unaffordable, costing more than in-state college tuition in half of states and eating up 35 percent of income for low-wage families. It was inaccessible, with half of the country living in a child care desert and families waiting years on waitlists to secure care. Compounding these challenges is the fact that child care workers – educators responsible for our children’s growth and development – were being paid an average of $29,900 per year and relying on public benefits for basic needs. These factors were worse for families and workers of color, who faced higher barriers to accessing and affording care, while being paid lower wages in the child care workforce. Simply put, the status quo was unsustainable,” the Members wrote.
“The pandemic made a bad situation worse, with women and people of color paying the price. In fact, one study showed that without further action the economy is at risk of losing more than $64.5 billion per year in women’s lost wages and economic activity. At the beginning of the pandemic, experts estimated at least $9.6 billion per month was needed to sustain the industry, yet Congress, hamstrung by Senate Republicans, provided just $3.5 billion until December or the equivalent of 11 days of relief over nine months. As a result, there are 171,400 fewer child care workers today than in February and a November survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) found that 42 percent of respondents that are still open have gone into debt by putting expenses on their personal credit cards,” the Members wrote.
“If we do not right this wrong and inject at least $40 billion in immediate child care stabilization funds, we are at risk of exacerbating the harm and losing half of our nation’s child care capacity. However, we cannot simply put a band-aid over a fundamentally broken system. We must seize the opportunity to advance the critical fixes envisioned in the landmark Child Care for Working Families Act, estimated at $60 billion per year. These changes would not only dramatically expand affordable child care and early learning options but also increase pay for workers who have proven to be essential and facilitate more high-quality providers. Making these changes would finally acknowledge that child care is a public good – a collective responsibility that is beneficial for our children’s health and wellbeing, the economy, and our future,” the Members wrote.
The Members also note the investment in child care is a gender and racial justice issue. Two million fewer women are in the labor force now than before the pandemic, in part due to caregiving responsibilities. Moreover, nearly 40 percent of child care workers are Black women and Latinas and 17 percent are immigrants.
A copy of the letter can be found here.