Searching for an issue that can garner agreement from all sides may sound like a daunting task. However, several groups are hoping that caring for and protecting our nation’s youngest citizens may unite lawmakers. They probably have good reason — it has happened before.
Child care is essential for many parents. Over 11 million children under age five are in some type of child care setting every week in the United States. These children spend an average of 35 hours every week in child care and when care breaks down, the results can be disastrous.
Adjusted for inflation, U.S. businesses lose approximately $4.4 billion annually due to employee absenteeism as the result of child care breakdowns. Over a six-month period, 45 percent of parents are absent from work at least once, missing an average of 4.3 days, due to child care breakdowns. Further, a lack of childcare can be a barrier to entry into the workforce. It is estimated that $29 billion in wages is lost annually because parents lack child care and are unable to work.
In addition to the economic impact, numerous studies have shown that quality child care provides numerous benefits, including preparing children for school. Despite the benefits, child care is simply unaffordable for many families.
Child care is the biggest household expense for many families, more than rent, food and transportation. Recently research found that center-based infant child care cost more than a year of tuition at a 4-year public university in 30 states, plus the District of Columbia.
The Administration and Congress have both shown a willingness to work on issues impacting families and young children. As previously reported in The Hill, Ivanka Trump is on record as being “very passionate” about childcare issues and Congress has a record of bipartisan effort on child care. As the new Administration is looking to make early legislative wins, many point to child care as an issue that is ripe for tackling.
Bipartisan support is not new: In November 2014, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act reauthorization was the single biggest piece of legislation affecting child care in nearly 20 years. Impressively, this effort was done with bipartisan support, passing the Senate 96-2.
Two major events focused on these issues are slated for the D.C. area within the next month.
In conjunction with their 2017 Policy Summit, Child Care Aware of America (CCAoA) is hosting 80 family advocates from across the country to engage with lawmakers on increasing federal funding for early child care and education programs.
The families, all of which have personally experienced challenges with the child care system, will be holding a rally on the North side of the Capitol beginning at 8:30am on Tuesday, April 25th. The rally will feature guest speakers, included invited members of Congress and conclude with constituent meetings on Capitol Hill. This initiative is part of the Child Care Works Campaign
The following week, strollers will be filling the halls of Congress as Zero to Three hosts “Strolling Thunder”. Strolling Thunder will include parents, babies and toddlers from all 50 states. Families are being encouraged to bring their strollers as they descend on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers on the importance of the first three years of a child’s life. This initiative is part of the #ThinkBabies campaign.
Groups representing child care and young children certainly have no shortage of legislation to opine on. However, for many top of the list is ensuring that CCDBG is fully funded. CCDBG is administered to states in formula block grants, which are used to subsidize child care for low-income working families (around 1.5 million children per month) and to support activities that improve the overall quality of child care for all children.
With the passage of the CCDBG Act, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) updated regulations for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) for the first time since 1998.
Ensuring these new requirements: background checks, health and safety standards, emergency preparedness planning, increased consumer education, new quality initiatives and more, are implemented is of paramount importance. However, these new requirements require additional funding — to ensure funds used for low-income working families are not jeopardized. An increase of $1.4 billion over FY 2016 levels is being sought.
Some other pieces of legislation that are being supported by child care advocates include:
Promoting Affordable Childcare for Everyone (PACE) Act of 2017, which addresses the issue of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC). The bill would expand and update the CDCTC to reflect the realities of modern-day child care costs.
Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act of 2017. This bill would provide up to 12 weeks of leave for working families and enable workers to earn up to 66 percent of their monthly income while on leave.
Child care is a non-partisan issue, and contains elements that all sides of the aisle should like. From ensuring children are safe and healthy, to allowing parents to enter and stay in the workforce, to reducing the child care burden through the tax code and expanding coverage for family leave - there is something for every Republican, Democrat and Independent. Ultimately, ensuring accessible, high-quality, and affordable child care is an issue that every parent can support.