It's sort of insane to think that the United States has no federal paid parental leave or affordable child care legislation. Access to affordable child care could make the lives of so many Americans dramatically different. And it might become a reality very soon. On Thursday, Democrats introduced legislation for affordable child care, the first of its kind in decades.
Virginia Rep. Rep. Bobby Scott and Washington Sen. Patty Murray introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, which goes even further than the affordable child care bill Congress was drafting in preparation for Hillary Clinton to be president.
The bill would ensure that families who make less than 150 percent of their state's median income are not spending more than 7 percent of their income on child care, according to the legislation. To do so, it would make child care an entitlement and increase federal funding for child care centers. It's a pretty comprehensive plan.
The bill would also seek to create federal and state partnerships to make sure high-quality child care was available, create new regulations for federal child care centers, as well as making sure child care staff are better trained and better paid. (According to the Center for American Progress, the average salary for child care workers is around $22,000.) Down the line, one main goal is universal pre-kindergarten programs for the 3 to 4-year-old set.
In addition to being backed by over 40 Democratic senators, the bill is also being lauded by over 100 progressive groups and labor organizations. Neera Tanden, president and CEO of CAP said in a statement released in the wake of the bill's announcement:
Sen. Murray and Rep. Scott address these challenges directly in their bold new bill that will help to provide peace of mind to American families by lowering costs for middle- and low-income families; investing in high-quality programs; addressing child care deserts; offering parents greater choice; and creating good jobs for teachers and caregivers.
Although the Democrats bypassed Ivanka Trump, who was planning on making child care her signature cause in her father's administration, the bill will definitely face some opposition. The Trump administration wants to make child care tax deductible, which mainly benefits the wealthy, and definitely doesn't like spending money on things they believe states and municipalities can handle (as they are currently, when it comes to child care).
So this bill might not get anywhere fast. However, it's a sign that the Democrats are getting it together. And making huge, ambitious plays like this will hopefully encourage more people to get out and vote in the midterm elections. So that bills like this one, and others, such as health care, can get through Congress.
Bills like this should be passed, if you care about the welfare of American families and the economy at all. Even if you want to break it all down to dollar signs. Studies show that high quality "birth-to-five programs" for lower income children deliver a 13 percent per year return on investment.
Kids who have quality programs to attend, with quality (and compensated) caregivers, and also don't have to watch their parents stress about money at the dinner table just do better in school later on. And then they get better jobs. Pay their student loan debt off, buy homes, and have more children who succeed. It's insane to think that there are people in Congress who wouldn't want to watch that happen.
There are way too many people out there hustling for no reason. Make it Work's Executive Director Tracy Sturdivant, told the story of two women in their statement, Jasmine Simon and Rochean Coffield. Both women are single moms who work multiple jobs, and in Simon's case even postponed college, just to cover the costs of childcare — and sometimes coming up short. Sturdivant said:
If passed, the Child Care for Working Families Act would provide Jasmine and Rochean with the ability to find high-quality care they can afford, save for other important needs like college and retirement, and go to work with a greater peace of mind knowing their children are happier, safer, and better prepared for school.
Let's hope that eventually everyone in Congress will want to make that world a reality sooner rather than later.
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