03.22.22

Senator Murray at Child Care and Pre-K Hearing: Democrats’ Bold Proposal Would Finally Solve Broken Child Care System, Lower Costs for Working Families

Senator Murray: “When it comes to child care—things are not working for families at all—and they haven’t been for some time.”

 

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

  

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, led a hearing focused on the broken child care system and the Democratic plan to lower child care costs, get families more child care options, and boost wages for child care workers—fully paid for by making the wealthiest pay their fair share.

 

During the hearing, Senator Murray made clear that our child care system is not working for families. Right now, families are struggling to afford child care—with child care often costing more than college tuition or a mortgage and putting families into debt; families are struggling with too few options—with millions living without a child care provider in their area; and on top of all that, child care workers are struggling to get by on poverty level wages—forcing them to leave the field, and leaving child care providers scrambling. 

 

“When it comes to child care—things are not working for families at all—and they haven’t been for some time,” said Senator Murray. “So my message today is that when it comes to child care—one of the big budget items most working families have to navigate—the status quo isn’t working—at all—for the millions of parents who need child care and the providers who need to recruit and retain talented educators. And nothing like the status quo is going to cut it. Parents are stressed, and they are tired of asking: ‘Can I choose the provider I actually like, can I afford this every month?’ Or: ‘Is it worth me going back to work if I have to pay as much as rent or mortgage or college tuition to send my child to a provider I trust?’ Or: ‘How long am I going to be on this waitlist, and what do I do in the meantime?’”

 

Senator Murray emphasized that the status quo isn’t working and the tools we currently have simply won’t fix our broken child care system. Our primary federal child care program—the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG)—only provides subsidies for 15% of kids who are eligible for it, and tens of millions of struggling families aren’t eligible in the first place. Plus, the program doesn’t help adequately boost wages for child care workers or provide more options for families.

 

“So let’s not mince words when it comes to the reality of this crisis. Our child care system is fundamentally broken: families are struggling to find and afford child care options that work for them, child care workers are struggling to make ends meet on poverty level wages, child care providers are struggling to stay open, and the tools we currently have—simply aren’t up to the job of fixing this,” continued Senator Murray. “Now, there’s no question our primary federal child care program—the Child Care Development Block Grant—has helped many families with low incomes get child care. But there is also no question it is not enough for the task at hand.”

 

To fix this broken system, Senator Murray outlined the bold solution Democrats have put forward—a fully paid for plan to bring down costs for families, bring up wages for workers, and give parents more child care options. Senator Murray emphasized that Democrats’ plan won’t just help families and lower their costs: it will help parents go back to work, it will help small businesses fill positions, it will help close gaps in our supply chain, and it will boost our whole economy.

 

This is not just terrible for parents and kids, but our economy as a whole. The reality is that when parents can’t work because of child care, that’s not just a problem for them—it’s one more position a small business can’t fill, it’s one less link in our supply chain moving things along, and ultimately it’s one more strain on our economy as a whole,” said Senator Murray. “That’s why Democrats have been putting forward bold solutions on child care. We have a fully paid for plan to bring down costs for families, bring up wages for workers, and give parents across the country more freedom to choose the quality child care options that are right for them—including family child care providers and faith-based providers—instead of going into debt or opting out of the workforce, same with pre-K—parents of three- and four-year-olds will have more options to send their kids to quality preschool, for free.”

 

Ultimately, Senator Murray made clear at the hearing her goals when it comes to child care: “Let’s lower child care costs for as many working parents as we can. Let’s offer parents more options. Let’s provide children with high-quality early learning experiences to help them thrive. Let’s help businesses fill all those vacancies they’ve got. Let’s work towards an economy that actually works for working families. And let’s do it now, because our families, and our country, cannot afford to keep waiting.”

 

The hearing included testimony from Rhian Evans Allvin, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC); Julie Kashen, Director of Women’s Economic Justice, and Senior Fellow of the Century Foundation; Maria-Isabel Ballivian, Executive Director of the ACCA Child Development Center; and Ellen Reynolds, Chief Executive Officer of the Georgia Child Care Association.

 

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

 

“We’ve made solid progress in rebuilding our economy from this pandemic—including historic job growth—but it’s clear when I listen to people back in Washington state that we have more work to do, especially when it comes to bringing down costs.

 

“Because the economy isn’t just about numbers on a page and whether they go up or down. It’s about people across the country and whether they can get what they need, whether they can take care of their loved ones, whether things are working for them and their families.

 

“And when it comes to child care—things are not working for families at all—and they haven’t been for some time.

 

“In my state, child care costs more than college tuition. And nationally: four out of ten parents have gone into debt due to the cost of child care, and almost three in ten have had to choose between paying for child care or paying rent.

“It also costs parents: when they have to miss work and miss a paycheck to take care of their kid, or when they have to leave their job altogether since they can’t get child care—something that happened to many women during this pandemic.

 

“But the scope of the problem goes well beyond cost.

 

“Many families don’t even have the option of getting child care, because they don’t live near any child care providers.

 

“Before this pandemic, half of all Americans lived in a child care desert—communities without enough child care options.

 

“Nationally, there are more than five infants and toddlers for every one opening, and in rural areas, there are nine children for every one opening.

 

“And finding child care options that meet their needs, is even more challenging still for parents of children with disabilities.

 

“And this has only been getting worse—in part because child care and early education workers are dramatically underpaid.

 

“Child care workers, who are most often women, and overwhelmingly women of color, earn, on average, $10.72 an hour, and rarely get benefits they need to take care of themselves and their own families—like health care, paid leave, or retirement benefits.

“That made it hard enough to retain high-quality child care workers—because they could make more an hour at Target or McDonalds. 

 

“But then, COVID-19 hit.

 

“The pandemic decimated the child care system—causing an estimated one out of ten providers to close their doors, and a third of workers to be laid off or furloughed.

 

“And things would have been even worse if Democrats didn’t take action in the American Rescue Plan to keep child care providers open. 

 

“So let’s not mince words when it comes to the reality of this crisis.

 

“Our child care system is fundamentally broken: families are struggling to find and afford child care options that work for them, child care workers are struggling to make ends meet on poverty level wages, child care providers are struggling to stay open, and the tools we currently have—simply aren’t up to the job of fixing this.

 

“Now, there’s no question our primary federal child care program—the Child Care Development Block Grant—has helped many families with low incomes get child care. But there is also no question it is not enough for the task at hand.

“Right now CCDBG only reaches one in nine kids who are eligible for it. Put another way, only 15% of the children eligible for CCDBG actually get subsidies. And, there are tens of millions of families struggling to afford child care who aren’t even eligible for CCDBG support.

 

“So in short: We’ve got an affordability problem—child care shouldn’t be an extra mortgage. A wages problem—child care workers are leaving the field for higher-paying work. And an options problem—there aren’t enough providers for most families to find one they like.

 

“This is not just terrible for parents and kids, but our economy as a whole.

 

“I’ve heard from businesses across Washington state who are losing workers or unable to hire new ones because parents can’t find child care.

 

“And we’re seeing this across the country too. Before the pandemic, two thirds of parents said child care affected their ability to stay in the workforce, and a more recent survey found seven in ten said child care uncertainty could force them or their partner out of their jobs.

“The reality is that when parents can’t work because of child care, that’s not just a problem for them—it’s one more position a small business can’t fill, it’s one less link in our supply chain moving things along, and ultimately it’s one more strain on our economy as a whole.

 

“That’s why Democrats have been putting forward bold solutions on child care.

 

“We have a fully paid for plan to bring down costs for families, bring up wages for workers, and give parents across the country more freedom to choose the quality child care options that are right for them—including family child care providers and faith-based providers—instead of going into debt or opting out of the workforce.

 

“Same with pre-K—parents of three- and four-year-olds will have more options to send their kids to quality preschool, for free.

 

“In year one of our plan, two-thirds of working families would pay no more than seven percent of their income for child care.

 

“And when it’s fully implemented, it would reach nine in ten working families—and save the typical family more than $5,000 a year.

“We would ensure high-quality providers of every stripe can pay their workers a competitive wage, and keep their doors open.

 

“And we want to make sure it is all fully paid for—by simply asking the wealthiest, and those at the top, to pay their fair share.

 

“So my message today is that when it comes to child care—one of the big budget items most working families have to navigate—the status quo isn’t working—at all—for the millions of parents who need child care and the providers who need to recruit and retain talented educators.

 

“And nothing like the status quo is going to cut it.

 

“Parents are stressed, and they are tired of asking: ‘Can I choose the provider I actually like, can I afford this every month?’ Or: ‘Is it worth me going back to work if I have to pay as much as rent or mortgage or college tuition to send my child to a provider I trust?’ Or: ‘How long am I going to be on this waitlist, and what do I do in the meantime?’

 

“As a former preschool teacher, I’ve seen what it means to parents to have these questions answered, to have this stress lifted, to have quality, affordable child care.

 

“And I want that for every parent who’s trying to do their job and take care of their kids. 

 

“Let’s lower child care costs for as many working parents as we can.

 

“Let’s offer parents more options.

 

“Let’s provide children with high-quality early learning experiences to help them thrive.

 

“Let’s help businesses fill all those vacancies they’ve got.

 

“Let’s work towards an economy that actually works for working families.

 

“Let’s do it now, because our families, and our country, cannot afford to keep waiting.

 

“That’s what I’m focused on, and I’m looking forward to hearing from our witnesses as we discuss this today. 

 

“Now, I’ll turn it over to Senator Burr for his opening remarks.”

 

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