04.07.22

Senator Murray, Majority of Senate Democrats Urge Action to Address Child Care Crisis Through Reconciliation

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), and a majority of Senate Democrats in sending a letter to President Joe Biden urging his Administration to address the ongoing child care crisis and help get working parents—especially moms—back to work by using reconciliation to lower child care costs, get families more child care options, and boost wages for child care workers—all fully paid for by making the wealthiest pay their fair share.

 

The letter was led by Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA-5) and was signed by over 150 Members of Congress in total—including 33 Senate Democrats. In addition to Senators Murray, Warren, and Smith, the letter was signed by: Senators Baldwin, Blumenthal, Booker, Cardin, Casey, Coons, Duckworth, Durbin, Feinstein, Gillibrand, Heinrich, Hirono, Kaine, King, Klobuchar, Leahy, Lujan, Markey, Menendez, Merkley, Murphy, Padilla, Reed, Rosen, Shaheen, Stabenow, Van Hollen, Warnock, Whitehouse, and Wyden.

 

“Addressing our nation’s child care crisis remains essential to boosting labor force participation among mothers, helping lower everyday expenses for families and child care providers who are facing higher costs due to inflation, and ensuring all children access the benefits of quality child care that support positive physical and brain development,” wrote the lawmakers.We stand ready to work with you to enact legislation through reconciliation that ensures middle-class and working families do not spend more than 7 percent of their income on child care, expands access to pre-K, and invests in the early childhood workforce and infrastructure.”

 

“Now is the time to make additional comprehensive, long-term investments in affordable, high-quality child care to build on the critical but largely short-term investments made through the American Rescue Plan. It is clear that child care and early learning investments are an integral part of our nation’s strategy for supporting a robust economy, lowering costs for families, and ensuring the long-term success of our children. With your leadership and support, we are ready to make these investments a reality.”

 

The letter comes on the heels of a HELP Committee hearing on child care and preschool held last month where Democratic and Republican witnesses alike called on Congress to address the nation’s worsening child care crisis through the budget reconciliation process. In the hearing, Senator Murray made clear that the status quo is not working for families who are struggling to find and afford child care or for child care providers who are struggling to recruit and retain talented educators. She emphasized that: “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. 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.”

 

Senator Murray has led the fight in Congress to fix the broken child care system and lower child care costs for families in Washington state—and across the country. The Democrats’ child care plan—to bring down costs for families, bring up wages for workers, and give parents more child care options, all fully paid for—is modeled on Senator Murray and Representative Bobby Scott’s Child Care for Working Families Act.

 

Full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:

 

Dear President Biden:

 

We write to thank you for your commitment to cutting the cost and increasing the supply of high-quality child care for families across the country. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate shortages, with parents unable to find child care and businesses struggling to find workers, contributing to supply chain bottlenecks and inflation. Addressing our nation’s child care crisis remains essential to boosting labor force participation among mothers, helping lower everyday expenses for families and child care providers who are facing higher costs due to inflation, and ensuring all children access the benefits of quality child care that support positive physical and brain development. We stand ready to work with you to enact legislation through reconciliation that ensures middle-class and working families do not spend more than 7 percent of their income on child care, expands access to pre-K, and invests in the early childhood workforce and infrastructure.

 

As you know, the high costs of child care and the difficulty of finding quality, affordable child care are challenges facing too many families across the country. The annual price of center-based child care for an infant exceeds the annual cost of in-state tuition at a public four-year university in every region of the country.  In addition to overwhelming costs, approximately 460,000 families are without reliable child care because the child care sector has lost over 1 in 9 jobs since the start of the pandemic.  Low industry wages are driving these challenges, with the average child care worker earning a median hourly wage of $12.24, and nearly 25 percent of child care workers requiring another job just to afford basic needs.   

 

Now is the time to make additional comprehensive, long-term investments in affordable, high-quality child care to build on the critical but largely short-term investments made through the American Rescue Plan. Relief funding has served as a critical tool for stabilizing child care programs and preventing widespread permanent program closures during the pandemic. However, a recent survey of early childhood educators found that 75 percent of respondents expect that the end of stabilization grants will have a negative effect on their programs.  Notably, 89 percent of respondents familiar with the House-passed provisions to ensure that working families do not spend more than 7 percent of their income on child care and that child care workers earn a living wage believe those investments will secure the future of their programs, while experts predict that families stand to save thousands of dollars a year. 

 

It is clear that child care and early learning investments are an integral part of our nation’s strategy for supporting a robust economy, lowering costs for families, and ensuring the long-term success of our children.  Lowering the cost of child care will allow working families to allocate money to other pressing family needs. Increasing child care industry wages and access to training will help with the recruitment and retention of child care professionals, creating and supporting millions of jobs for women, especially women of color.   Improving access to child care will help working parents rejoin the workforce. One study found that, as of May 2021, the pandemic forced more than 1 in 3 female caregivers to reduce their hours or leave the workforce, which the majority of women said they could not afford to do.  Experts predict that approximately 1 million more workers would be in the labor force today if the labor participation rate of mothers with young children could be raised to match the participation rate of women with school-age children. With your leadership and support, we are ready to make these investments a reality. 

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to working together to enact legislation that supports America’s children, economy, and early learning and child care programs. 

 

Sincerely,

  

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