Speaking from a shuttered daycare center in Massachusetts on Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren addressed America's child care crisis and promoted Joe Biden's plan to make quality child care affordable for all in a virtual appearance at the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC). With an empty classroom at the Early Childhood Education Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, behind her, Warren underscored how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic had exacerbated already serious issues of access and inequality within child care.
"What has the COVID fallout done to our babies?" Warren asked. "Child care was already hard to find before the pandemic. And now, parents are stuck — no idea when schools can safely reopen and even fewer child care options. The devastation is enormous."
Unfortunately, Warren isn't exaggerating. In an April survey conducted by the family support and benefits platform Cleo in partnership with Happiest Baby, the Mom Project, and Paid Leave for the United States (PL+US) more than 50% of working parent respondents reported being without child care as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And 20% said either they or their partner were considering leaving the workforce in order to care for their children.
The current pandemic has also had devastating consequences for child care providers. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, nearly two-thirds of the child care providers said they would not be able to survive a closure that lasted longer than one month in a nationwide survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Only 11% of providers said they could weather a closure of an indefinite amount of time without public investment and support. According to the National Women's Law Center, one in five child care jobs — the majority of which are filled by women — have been lost since February.
"We build infrastructure like roads, bridges, and communications systems so that people can work," Warren said Wednesday at the DNC. "That infrastructure helps us all because it keeps our economy going. It's time to recognize that child care is part of the basic infrastructure of this nation — it's infrastructure for families."
To illustrate how vital child care is for working parents, Warren described how she struggled to find high-quality, affordable, and reliable child care as a young mother. "When I had babies and was juggling my first big teaching job down in Texas, it was hard. But I could do hard," Warren said. "The thing that almost sank me? Child care."
But just as Warren was preparing to quit her job due to an inability to find child care, her Aunt Bee stepped in. "She arrived with seven suitcases and a Pekingese named Buddy and stayed for 16 years," Warren said. "I get to be here tonight because of my Aunt Bee. I learned a fundamental truth: nobody makes it on their own. And yet, two generations of working parents later, if you have a baby and don't have an Aunt Bee, you're on your own."
The senator, and former 2020 presidential hopeful, went on to applaud 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's plan to make preschool universal and high-quality child care affordable for every family while also raising child care worker wages. Under Biden's plan low-and-middle income families would have two options: pay no more than 7% of their annual income for child care or receive a refundable tax credit equal to half of their child care costs up to $8,000 for one child and $16,000 for two to help cover the cost of child care for children under the age of 13.
"I love a good plan," Warren said, "and Joe Biden has some really good plans."