04.27.21

Former Preschool Teacher & HELP Chair Murray Leads Hearing on Strengthening America’s Child Care Sector

Murray underscores importance of ensuring quality, affordable child care for working families 

Last week, Senator Murray re-introduced Child Care for Working Families Act

Senator Murray: “If we are going to rebuild from this crisis stronger, and fairer … we can’t do it without child care for every working family.”

***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S OPENING REMARKS HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, held a hearing focused on strengthening our child care sector and finally addressing our nation’s child care crisis, which has always made life more challenging for working families and families of color. In her opening remarks, Senator Murray highlighted that the pandemic has further devastated the child care sector by jeopardizing child care for 4.5 million children, closing more than 20,000 child care centers, and forcing one-fifth of child care workers out of work. At the hearing, Senator Murray emphasized that child care is a critical part of our infrastructure, and if we want build back an economy that works for working families—we must make child care affordable, and available to every working family.

 

Last week, Senator Murray re-introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, which would make child care affordable for working families, expand access to preschool programs for 3- and 4-year olds, improve the quality of care for all children, and increase compensation and provide training for child care workers.

 

The hearing included testimony from Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, Chief Policy Officer, ZERO TO THREE, Ms. Susan Gale Perry, Chief Deputy Secretary, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Ms. Khadija Lewis Khan, Executive Director, Beautiful Beginnings Child Care Center, and Ms. Dasja Reed, a working mother from New Orleans, Louisiana.

 

During her opening remarks, Senator Murray discussed how a lack of child care options has been incredibly difficult for working parents during this pandemic, including women and parents of color, who have been forced to quit their jobs or lose a paycheck because they can’t find quality, affordable child care.

“Millions of parents have lost hours, wages, and jobs during this pandemic because they couldn’t get quality, affordable, accessible child care. Studies show that child care was the primary reason people left the workforce during this pandemic. This problem has been worse for working moms. Nearly half were forced to take unpaid leave to care for their children and one in ten quit their jobs due to this pandemic—the majority of whom cited child care as a reason. And the numbers are even worse for women who are paid low incomes, women who work part time jobs, and women of color,” said Senator Murray.

Senator Murray spoke about the rising costs and lack of available of child care, as well as how undervalued and underpaid child care workers are—the vast majority of whom are women and disproportionately, women of color—all of which has been a crisis long before the pandemic.

 

“And even if families have a child care provider within reach, it is often far too expensive. In D.C., and 29 states, child care costs more than in-state college tuition—including in Washington state, where the average yearly cost for child care is nearly $15,000. For families with low incomes, child care can cost over a third of their income. And while families are paying too much of their incomes for child care—child care workers are being paid far too little. These workers are doing the incredibly important job of caring for and educating children so parents are able to go to work and provide for their families—but only making, on average, $11 an hour—and they rarely have benefits.”

 

Senator Murray talked about how child care is a critical part of our infrastructure, saying, “We talk about crumbling infrastructure when it comes to roads and bridges—but we’ve never really had child care infrastructure in the first place in this country, which has cost our nation $57 billion in lost revenue, productivity, and wages each year.”

 

“If we are going to rebuild from this crisis stronger, and fairer—if we are going to build an economy that truly works for working families—we can’t do it without child care for every working family,” she added.

 

Senator Murray’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

 

“I’d also like to thank Senator Burr for working with me in a bipartisan way to hold the HELP Committee’s first child care hearing in years—this is long overdue. I know this issue is important to Senator Burr and every member of this Committee given its impact on so many families and workers. I look forward to more conversations about what this Committee and the Senate can do to address the child care needs of millions of families.

 

“We are here today for people like, Patty Liu, a mother from south Seattle I spoke with last week.

 

“Early last year, Patty got her dream job. Then the pandemic hit, her child care provider closed, and her employer laid her off, because she had to work fewer hours to care for her kids.  Unfortunately, her story is not unique. Not even close.

 

“Dasja Reed is here today as a witness to share her own story of child care challenges.

 

“Millions of parents have lost hours, wages, and jobs during this pandemic because they couldn’t get quality, affordable, accessible child care. Studies show that child care was the primary reason people left the workforce during this pandemic. This problem has been worse for working moms.

 

“Nearly half were forced to take unpaid leave to care for their children and one in ten quit their jobs due to this pandemic—the majority of whom cited child care as a reason.

 

“And the numbers are even worse for women who are paid low incomes, women who work part time jobs, and women of color. 

 

“And at the same time this pandemic has highlighted how important child care is to build an economy that works for working families, it has also devastated the child care sector by jeopardizing child care for 4.5 million children, closing more than 20,000 child care centers, and forcing one-fifth of child care workers out of work.

 

“This loss has been deeply damaging to the families who rely on these providers, child care workers—the vast majority of whom are women, and businesses who are losing employees who can’t find or afford child care.

 

“It’s especially hard on communities of color, as half of child care businesses are minority owned, and nearly half of child care workers are women of color.

 

“I’ve been speaking with child care providers throughout this pandemic about the support they need to keep their doors open, and it’s clear that COVID-19 has made things harder. 

 

“But make no mistake—child care was in crisis long before this pandemic.

 

“One mom in Washington state spoke about reaching out to 20 to 30 child care providers over 5 years, switching providers three different times, and driving 45 minutes both ways to get child care for her daughter so she could go to work.

 

“And for many families, even that is not an option. Over half of the country lives in a child care desert—or a community with an undersupply of licensed child care options. And for families with low incomes, families of color, and rural families—child care is even less available.

 

“In Washington state, there are over 50,000 children under age 5 across Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Grant, Kittitas, Walla Walla, and Yakima counties. But even before the pandemic—child care was only available for less than half of these kids.

“And even if families have a child care provider within reach, it is often far too expensive. In D.C., and 29 states, child care costs more than in-state college tuition—including in Washington state, where the average yearly cost for child care is nearly $15,000.

 

“For families with low incomes, child care can cost over a third of their income. And while families are paying too much of their incomes for child care—child care workers are being paid far too little.

 

“These workers are doing the incredibly important job of caring for and educating children so parents are able to go to work and provide for their families—but only making, on average, $11 an hour—and they rarely have benefits.

 

“We talk about crumbling infrastructure when it comes to roads and bridges—but we’ve never really had child care infrastructure in the first place in this country, which has cost our nation $57 billion in lost revenue, productivity, and wages each year.

 

“It costs parents, who have to forgo careers and job opportunities, or struggle to put food on the table, because they can’t afford the child care they need to find a job. It especially costs parents of children with disabilities, and women of color—who are much more likely to be unable to look for a higher paying job, because they can’t find or afford child care.

 

“And it costs our children, who miss out on high-quality early education that can help them grow and thrive. With costs so high, we can’t afford inaction.

 

“This issue is personal for me. I know what it’s like to have a sick child, and have to talk with your partner about who will miss work to watch the kids. I know what it’s like to work at an early education program.

 

“Early childhood programs are part of why I first got into politics: to save a co-op preschool program that helped families like mine. It’s why I worked in a bipartisan way to secure the biggest ever increase in federal child care funding in 2018.

 

“It’s why during COVID, I fought to secure over $50 billion in funding for child care to make sure our child care sector can survive the pandemic, keep hundreds of thousands of providers who serve millions of children from closure, and help almost one million families across the country afford quality, child care.

 

“And it’s why I’m continuing to fight to pass my Child Care for Working Families Act, which will ensure child care is affordable for working families, expand access to preschool programs for all 3- and 4-year olds, improve the supply and quality of care for all children, and increase compensation and provide training for child care workers.

 

“This legislation will jumpstart our economy by creating 770,000 new child care jobs, helping 1.6 million parents—primarily mothers—go back to work, and lifting one million families out of poverty.


“Because the reality is—child care is a critical part of our infrastructure.

 

“We have 21.5 million workers who have a child under age 6. They need the basics to be able to do their jobs. And the basics mean bridges and roads—but they also absolutely mean child care.

 

“Ask any mom. Ask any parent. Ask Dasja Reed or Patty Liu. And they’ll tell you—a road won't do you any good if you can’t find safe child care for your kid. 

 

“If we are going to rebuild from this crisis stronger, and fairer—if we are going to build an economy that truly works for working families—we can’t do it without child care for every working family.

 

“Now I’ll recognize Ranking Member Burr for his opening remarks.”

 

###