COVID-19 took the child care crisis into the stratosphere. Democrats have a plan to fix it

COVID-19 took the child care crisis into the stratosphere. Democrats have a plan to fix it

Child care was a crisis before the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Bobby Scott first introduced a bill to create a more comprehensive child care system in 2017, and again in 2019.  So far that legislation has gone nowhere. But now that COVID-19 has made the child care crisis exponentially worse and Democrats have taken the White House and both chambers of Congress, there’s a chance that the federal government may do something to improve this situation.

The Murray-Scott Child Care for Working Families Act would turn existing state block grants into entitlements, so that rather than running out of money with—as is currently the case—just one in seven eligible families getting help paying for child care, everyone who qualifies would get it. Many families, including those with incomes below 75% of their state’s median income, would get free care. Families from 75% to 150% of the median would get assistance on a sliding scale, but would never have to pay more than 7% of their income on child care. That would reach four out of five infants and toddlers and provide a major increase in affordability: According to a 2019 survey, “average child care spending amounts to nearly 10 percent of the average family income, or 40 percent higher than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ definition of affordability.”

The bill would not only improve the child care industry from the parents’ perspective—it would also direct subsidies only to providers that meet salary requirements, improving pay in an industry where average wages are extremely low. The child care workforce is 95% women, 20% Latina, and 19% Black. And in a virtuous cycle, raising wages would lower turnover among child care workers, which would benefit children.

The expense of child care is a major contributing factor to the fact that “in 2016 alone, an estimated 2 million parents made career sacrifices due to problems with child care,” the Center for American Progress reported in 2019. Those decisions hit women’s careers: “In a 2018 survey conducted by the Center for American Progress, mothers were 40 percent more likely than fathers to report that they had personally felt the negative impact of child care issues on their careers.” 

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically worsened this problem, with many child care centers closing or reducing enrollment to comply with public health guidelines, and many families feeling unsafe sending their kids to group care. As of March 1, 2.3 million women had left the paid workforce, with employment for Black and Latina women dropping disproportionately.

”This bill is critical to America’s economic recovery and growth by allowing at least 1.6 million parents to enter the workforce and creating at least 700,000 new jobs,” Center for American Progress executive vice president for policy Mara Rudman said in a statement.

In recent months, COVID-19 relief legislation has provided some help to the struggling child care industry. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 allocated $10 billion to child care, and $39 billion in American Rescue Plan funding is on its way to support child care. But much more is needed, and this bill, a version of which will likely be included as part of Biden’s American Rescue Plan, would move the U.S. closer to a sustainable child care situation.

Even the original version of the Child Care for Working Families Act wasn’t fully universal child care like many other wealthy nations have, and the level of funding that early reports suggest Biden would direct to child care would fall short of the Murray-Scott proposal. But Biden’s plan, as currently reported, would represent a historic level of investment in child care in the U.S. And it would come at a time when the need is blazingly clear. Republicans, of course, will oppose it, but under budget reconciliation rules in the Senate, a unified Democratic Party could make it happen.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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