Politics

Elizabeth Warren and Katherine Clark press Joe Biden to up childcare funding in new plan

The two Massachusetts Democrats led a letter urging Biden to triple the reported levels of child care funding in the upcoming American Families Plan.

President Joe Biden during a White House speech this winter. Anna Moneymaker / The New York Times

President Joe Biden is planning to unveil a new bill next week to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in childcare, paid leave, and education.

According to Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Katherine Clark, it needs to include more money for childcare.

The two Massachusetts Democrats led a letter Friday urging Biden to include “at least $700 billion for long-term, structural investments in child care” as part of the upcoming American Families Plan, which they called a “generational opportunity” to to invest in a system that many families struggled to afford even before the sector was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We urge you not to let it go to waste,” the letter said.

While the legislation has yet to be officially released, the $700 billion that Warren and Clark are calling would be more than triple the amount of money that is reportedly in the bill for childcare. As the Washington Post reported this week, the American Families Plan is expected to include roughly $225 billion for child-care funding, along with $225 billion for paid family and medical leave, $200 billion for universal prekindergarten instruction, and other funding for education, including tuition-free community colleges, and nutritional assistance.

However, the letter Friday — which was also signed by Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and 33 House Democrats — suggested that $225 billion would not be enough to “transform this broken system into one that is sustainable for families and providers over the long run.”

The group proposed increasing existing subsidy programs to cap out-of-pocket childcare costs for families at no more than 7 percent of their income. They also called for raising payment rates for providers — most of whom make less than $13 an hour — to ensure they make a “living wage with benefits, equivalent to other educators with similar credentials.”

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In the letter, the group said those changes would cost $60 billion a year. They also proposed grants to pay for facilities and start-up costs in order to increase the number of childcare providers in a sector that has seen mass closures and layoffs during the pandemic. All in all, they said at least $700 billion for child care programs over the next 10 years would be necessary for those investments.

White House officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter Friday.

The upcoming bill, which is reportedly set to total $1.5 trillion, comes in addition to Biden’s recently proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan and the recently passed COVID-19 relief legislation, which included $40 billion to support childcare programs. However, that funding is estimated to be enough support for just six months and “is not a long-term solution to the lack of affordable, high quality child care for working families,” Warren and Clark argue.

“Providing affordable, quality care for every child and family who needs it would create jobs, increase productivity, and have lifelong benefits for children’s development and growth,” their letter Friday said. “We urge you to prioritize investments in a stronger child care system in the American Families Plan to ensure that women and families are not left behind in our recovery.”

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