US-funded child care aid nearing reality with Biden bill

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Women – and some men – have been fighting for government child care assistance in Congress for nearly 80 years

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WASHINGTON – Women – and some men – have been fighting for government child care assistance in Congress for nearly 80 years. Together President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion social service package They are as close as they have ever been to winning.

And it’s not just child care subsidies. Biden’s bill is making its way through Congress, providing America with free preschool, paid family leave to care for children or sick loved ones, and a massively expanded child tax credit of federal support to working families. Will definitely put.

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Taken together, this is the Democrats’ response to President Richard Nixon’s veto of the 1971 child care bill and the elimination of pre-World War II child care centers, potentially providing families with more government support than ever before. Many struggle in the wake of the -19 pandemic.

Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat with two young children, said, “I think COVID really showed people how broken our child care system is, which people finally understood.”

Biden’s big bill adds to a series of long-sought Democratic goals to shore up families that previously only tried to run into resistance, as it is again today, with Republicans against the package. .

The Child Care Subsidy will attempt to guarantee that most Americans spend no more than 7% of their income on child care.

And while Congress approved the Family and Medical Leave Act nearly 30 years ago to guarantee time off, the US is one of a handful of wealthy countries that do not offer paid time off to care for children or sick loved ones. Biden’s bill will replace that.

All told, the federal government’s new programs for paid parental leave, child care and an expanded child tax credit “will be quite a major, if not a milestone, change for social policy and families in the modern economy.” Expanding your reach into the depths of confronting, said Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University.

Long before child care began to eat up a large portion of family income and the COVID-19 crisis pushed women out of the workforce to care for children at home, Congress sought to reduce child-rearing costs in the US

Nearly 80 years ago, Rep. Mary Norton of New Jersey—known as “Batling Mary,” the first female Democrat elected to the House—was instrumental in securing funding for child care centers during World War II. The role was played as mothers went to work. , But the program was terminated soon after the war ended and was never revived.

A quarter century later, Nixon invoked both communism and traditional female roles when she vetoed bipartisan legislation for child care, saying it was “radical” and had a “family-weakening effect”.

“We’re still fighting for it,” says House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa Delaro, a Connecticut Democrat who has been pushing child care subsidies and other programs to help families since being a Senate aide in the 1980s. Giving. “You can’t have a functioning economy without a strong childcare system. You can’t do this, right? Because women are the anchor in the economy.”

With opposition from Republicans, Democrats trying to pass Biden’s bill on their own have turned out to be a messy, grueling process. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a conservative Democrat, is not completely on board with the proposals for parental leave and a few other, making his eventual inclusion uncertain.

Like Nixon 50 years ago, Republicans worry that providing an expanded federal safety net for American families with children is a slippery slope toward a socialist-style system.

Republicans say the costs of the programs—about $400 billion for child care and preschool pieces alone—are too high and will create more government intrusions into families’ lives.

Echoing Nixon’s words, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called Biden’s approach “radical” in a speech on the Senate floor last week. McConnell said Biden’s administration wants to “insert itself into the most intimate family decisions and tell parents how to care for their children.”

But women who have supported family-friendly federal policies, many of whom ran for office and were elected because of their experience as parents, say times have changed.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who was first elected three decades ago and recalls voters asking what she would do with her children if she won, says the country has developed since Nixon suggested Given that communal support would maintain the traditional family structure.

“There are more women in Congress, more women at work, more families that have the income to be able to put food on the table, who send their kids to college,” says Murray.

The House bill will phase in a new child care entitlement program over three years, starting immediately for preschoolers for families earning their state’s median income. Enrolled families will receive subsidies for access to participating facilities, which can range from child care centers to home day care.

The program will eventually expand to households that earn 250% of that median income by 2025, giving the child care industry time to build on after many layoffs and closures following the pandemic.

States will decide whether they want to participate in the program or not. Some advocates of child care policy worry that Republican states will drop out for political reasons, meaning fewer Americans will have access.

Child care provision is closely tied to the universal preschool option, and states would be encouraged to enroll in both.

Duckworth said it became clear to him that the debate had changed, especially after the pandemic, that his office was approached by restaurant owners and other businesses in his state – “not exactly a liberal group of people” – who said childcare support was important for getting their employees back to work.

“Child care is a central part of our economic infrastructure,” said Representative Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the adjunct speaker who helped broker care provisions.

While the paid leave portion may not make it through the Senate evenly divided between the parties where every vote is required, Democrats insist that all elements work together not only for women, but for all families. will be transformative.

Mazhi Hirono, D-Hawaii, says the United States has historically not been helpful to women, but it has a chance to change course.

“There’s a lot of rhetoric about families and all, but it’s BS,” Hirono said. “So now, we’re finally in a position where we can provide this type of support.”

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