The past year showed just how essential child care is to the country and our economy. As the world reopens and parents return to work, policymakers are realizing that it is not sufficient to restore the child care sector to where it was prior to the pandemic.
We have long known that despite the considerable investments that have been made for pandemic-related relief, the solution for an equitable and sustainable child care system lies in long-term, robust investment. Advocacy efforts over the past year have made it clear that immediate relief was desperately needed. But we also need to keep in mind that the child care sector was broken long before COVID-19. What the sector needs is long-term investment to build a system that meets the needs of children, families and providers.
Federal policymakers are stepping forward to champion child care. They are proposing big, long-term investments and finding solutions that will transform the child care system to better serve families, children, providers and communities. This blog post, the second in our two-part series, will focus on the legislative proposals in Congress.
Congress has several child care champions who have long fought for investments in the child care sector. These champions helped ensure child care received over $50 billion in relief over the past year. Now they have put forward several legislative proposals that would provide long-term investment and help create a more equitable child care system.
How 5 Legislative Proposals Can Strengthen Child Care
Much like the proposals from the Biden Administration, these would target funding to child care facilities and to finding ways to make care more affordable and accessible while providing higher wages for the child care workforce. Each proposal would have a substantial impact on child care and address some of the persistent problems in the current system. Below are some of the proposed ways these Congressional champions are planning to invest in the long-term needs of the child care sector.
Child Care for Working Families Act- Introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives
The Child Care for Working Families Act, introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, is a comprehensive proposal that would invest in building an affordable, accessible and equitable child care system. As CCAoA’s statement on the Child Care for Working Families Act explains, this piece of legislation would address some of the most critical challenges currently facing the child care system.
The major components of the bill include:
- Ensuring that no family with a low or moderate income spends more than 7% of their income on child care.
- Improving wages for child care educators by ensuring they are paid on par with elementary school teachers who have comparable credentials and experience.
- Establishing quality standards by provider setting (e.g., center-based care, care offered at non-traditional times and home-based care) with required input from families and early educators.
- Increasing the supply of high-quality child care programs.
- Providing funding to states to establish and expand high-quality preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds in a mixed delivery system.
Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act- Introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives
The Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-NY), is another comprehensive proposal with sweeping reforms and investments in the child care and early learning systems. The bill would establish a network of federally supported and locally administered child care programs to ensure every family has access to high-quality and affordable child care despite their employment status.
The major components of the bill include:
- Ensuring no family pays more than 7% of their income on child care.
- Setting quality standards for centers and family child care programs based on current U.S. military child care and Head Start program standards.
- Improving salaries of the child care workforce by requiring wages and benefits for child care workers be comparable to those of public school teachers with equivalent credentials.
- Providing Pre-K curriculum and education services through the network of locally administered child care options.
Child Care is Infrastructure Act- Introduced in the House of Representatives
Introduced by Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-MA), the Child Care is Infrastructure Act invests in child care infrastructure and workforce development.
The major components of the bill include:
- Directing the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a national needs assessments of child care and early learning facilities to understand the impact of the pandemic and the ongoing needs of facilities.
- Establishing a competitive grant program for states to address necessary renovations of and modifications to child care facilities.
- Creating a student loan repayment program for early childhood educators employed by providers who receive Child Care and Development Block Grant funding.
- Providing scholarships for child care workers to pursue a Childhood Development Association Credential or an associate’s degree.
- Reauthorizing the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) grant program, which provides grants to support or establish campus-based child care programs. These grants serve primarily students with low incomes who are enrolled at institutions of higher education.
Building Child Care for a Better Future Act- Introduced in the Senate
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tina Smith (D-MN), introduced the Building Child Care for a Better Future Act. The bill would allocate mandatory funding, through a permanent increase to the Child Care Entitlement to States program, to build the supply of child care, invest in facility upgrades and support the child care workforce. Additionally, this program would create a new permanent grant program to improve child care supply, quality and affordability.
The new grant program funding could be used to:
- Recruit child care providers and staff.
- Provide startup funding, technical assistance and business supports to new providers.
- Build and renovate child care facilities and family child care homes.
- Offer professional development and training for the child care workforce.
- Increase child care workers’ total compensation or provide bonuses and retention rewards.
Building an Economy for Families Act- Proposed but not yet introduced in the House of Representatives
Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) of the House Ways and Means Committee proposed the Building an Economy for Families Act, which would expand access to high-quality child care and early learning for working families by increasing the permanent mandatory funding for the Child Care Entitlement to States program. The proposal would also make permanent the American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
Additional components of the bill include:
- Providing universal paid family and medical leave to all U.S. workers.
- Establishing a Child Care Information Network for parents and caregivers to access real-time data and information about available child care slots in their communities and the benefits available to families to help pay for care.
- Raising the wages of child care workers by creating a new refundable payroll tax credit for child care providers.
- Investing in the infrastructure of child care facilities.
The above proposals would provide substantial and much needed long-term investment in the child care sector. All would provide the funding needed to address some of the most persistent problems in the current child care system.
These legislative proposals, along with those from the Administration covered in part 1 of our blog series, are up to Congress to finalize and pass before sending to the President to be signed into law. Many of the legislative proposals mirror and complement the proposals made in the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. However, negotiations around a path forward for infrastructure proposals, including the President’s Plans, are currently heating up between legislators in Congress and the White House. Advocacy for long-term investments and support of the infrastructure of child care are more important than ever.
While we have the spotlight and the momentum around the importance of child care, we cannot afford to do nothing. We must take advantage of this moment and it is now up to Congress to pass these proposals into law. Let your Members of Congress know that we need long-term and substantial federal investments in child care. Tell your Members of Congress about these proposals and the need to act now.