One of the biggest problems for working families across the U.S. is the lack of access to affordable child care. The exorbitant cost can cause severe stress on Americans' finances and as of now, there's no federal policy on the issue. Sen. Patty Murray wants to change that.
On Thursday, the Washington Democrat and Rep. Bobby Scott from Virginia introduced the Child Care For Working Families Act aiming to make high quality child care more affordable. One of the main goals is to ensure that families who make less than 150% of their state's median income are not spending more than 7% of their income on child care. To achieve this, it would increase the amount of federal funding for child care centers.
The legislation would create a federal-state partnership to address high-quality child care, add new regulations for federal child care centers, provide support to members of the child care workforce by improving compensation and training, and support the creation of universal pre-school programs for children aged 3 and 4.
"At a time when far too many working families are struggling, finding quality child care that doesn’t break the bank shouldn’t be another thing keeping parents up at night," Murray said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "As a former preschool teacher, I know what quality early learning and care can do for a child’s development, so I’m proud to introduce the Child Care for Working Families Act to address our child care crisis and support access to high-quality preschool so that all children are ready for kindergarten and beyond. This is not only the right thing to [do] for working families, but it’s a smart investment in our children, our future, and our economy."
Child care in the U.S. can cost up to $9,500 per year, according to the New America Foundation. In fact, in some states, paying for one year of child care can be more expensive for families than paying for one year of college tuition.
And the exorbitant costs can make a dent in parents' careers: A report by the left-leaning Center For American Progress found that about two million parents of children aged 5 or under have made huge sacrifices to their careers because of issues finding care for their kids. Parents who are students also suffer greatly because of the lack of affordable, or even accessible, child care on college campuses across the nation — they have about 25% more student debt and higher dropout rates than child-free students.
And in the White House, Ivanka Trump has said she is trying to move the needle as well, meeting with conservative advocates to talk about expanding the child tax credit last week. She's also believed to be the person who got a paid family leave plan into President Trump's federal budget proposal. However, it's unlikely that plan in particular will go anywhere because requiring employers to offer paid family leave has never been particularly appealing to Republicans and Ivanka hasn't found a sponsor for her proposal yet.
It's unclear if Senate Democrats have reached out to Ivanka to court her support for this bill, or whether she would be willing to work with them. (Refinery29 reached out to the White House and didn't hear back by press time.)
It's too soon to know whether Murray's proposal will gain any momentum in Congress. But overall, advocacy groups believe the Child Care For Working Families Act is a step in the right direction.
And in a statement provided to Refinery29, the executive director and policy director of the education campaign Make It Work, Tracy Sturdivant and Julie Kashen, praised the initiative.
“Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed. But right now, too many families are working hard, sometimes multiple jobs, late or long hours and they still can’t afford child care," the statement reads. "As a country, it’s time we decided to do better for working families and invest in a child care system that reflects the needs of today’s families. The Child Care for Working Families Act is an important first step and we urge Congress to do better and pass this bill into law."