Chairman Neal Opening Statement for Subtitle C at Markup of the Build Back Better Act
Washington, September 9, 2021
(As prepared for delivery)
Our next order of business is Subtitle C. Budget Reconciliation Legislative Recommendations Relating to Childcare Access and Equity which will make investments to address an issue that too often causes American parents and guardians stress and anxiety.
Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, child care access was an insurmountable barrier to work and financial stability for many families across the United States. A 2018 analysis found that approximately half the country has too few licensed child care options to meet demand.
This inaccessibility has a significant effect on America’s economy and workforce, particularly for women.
According to analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, expanding access to affordable, high-quality child care to everyone who needs it would increase the number of women ages 25 to 54 with young children working full-time and full-year by about 17 percent, and by about 31 percent for women without any college degree.
Moreover, child care workers themselves are severely underpaid, causing hardship for them and high turnover in the field. Child care workers earn less than $24,000 a year – about $11.50 an hour. A survey of early childhood staff found that nearly 75 percent worry about being able to pay their bills, while almost half are concerned about having enough food for their families.
Ninety-two percent of child care workers are women and 40 percent are women of color.
Both the barriers to accessing child care and the undervaluing of child care workers are deepening inequities in our nation, straining families, and undercutting our economy. The COVID crisis merely exacerbated these existing problems and heightened the urgency with which we must act.
The recommendations included in Subtitle C propose investments that will directly address the challenges women at all income levels face finding child care, raise child care worker wages, and improve physical infrastructure to make child care safer and more affordable for all families.
We will provide much-needed funds for child care business owners to conduct physical infrastructure projects that update, grow, and improve the supply of child care in the United States while being responsive to new public health guidelines associated with social distancing and sanitation.
Katherine Clark championed this investment, which passed the House in the previous Congress and is included in the Biden American Jobs Plan.
We also fund the creation of a Child Care Information Network that provides parents and guardians with real-time information about child care availability and helps them apply for slots that meet their needs.
I want to acknowledge the leadership that the advocates and mothers of MomsRising have shown on this excellent initiative. Nina Perez, MomsRising’s National Director of Early Learning, testified before the Committee during a hearing on these issues in May of this year. She spoke of the sacrifices her own family had to make due to the failings of the child care system, and emphasized the importance of proposals like the Child Care Information Network for families.
To help raise the floor for child care provider pay, we invest in child care wage grants for small businesses. This would offer crucial support to child care workers, who are disproportionately women of color earning poverty-level wages for this important work.
And finally, we also propose providing funds to upgrade infrastructure and parent information in American Indian and Alaska Native communities and properly consult them in keeping with tribal sovereignty.
Quality, accessible child care is essential for America’s working parents. And child care workers add tremendous value for families and for our economy – their compensation should reflect the significance of those contributions.
Investments in child care are investments in our workforce and our sustained economic might. As I’ve said before, while roads, bridges, and public transit may get workers to their jobs, it’s child care that keeps them there. I look forward to seeing our members’ robust support for these measures.
I now recognize the gentlelady from Indiana, Ms.Walorski, for purposes of an opening statement.