Biden Administration Proposes $1.eight trillion Plan for Childcare, Household Go away and Tuition-Free Group Faculty | The Takeaway

President Joe Biden: Throughout our history, presidents have come to this chamber, to speak to Congress, to the nation, and of the world, to declare war, to celebrate peace, to announce new plans and possibilities. Tonight, I come to talk about crisis and opportunity, about rebuilding the nation, revitalizing our democracy, and winning the future for America.

Nancy Solomon: This is the takeaway. I’m Nancy Solomon from WNYC news in for Tanzina Vega this week. The Biden-Harris administration has now clocked 100 full days since taking the mantle of leading this country during one of the most challenging times in American history. For most presidents, this is when both critics and supporters, mostly journalists to be honest, take a shot of giving an early grade on how the president is succeeding or failing at the job so far. Biden grabbed the reins of the 100 days narrative with a speech to Congress and has proposed a $1.8 trillion plan to fund paid family leave, and medical leave, affordable childcare, tuition-free community college, and a variety of other programs

President Biden: To win that competition for the future in my view, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children. That’s why I’ve introduced the American Families Plan tonight.

Nancy: The American Families Plan comes on the heels of the $1.9 trillion jobs in infrastructure package proposed by the White House last month, but the bill faces a difficult path in Congress, where many Republicans oppose additional large spending measures and tax increases. We’re joined today by Congresswoman Katherine Clark, who represents the Fifth District of Massachusetts. Representative Clark, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Congresswoman Katherine Clark: Thank you for having me, Nancy.

Nancy: What is your reaction to Biden’s comments on the American Families Plan during his speech last night, what stood out to you?

Congresswoman Clark: I was so excited to hear the president speak last night of the fundamentals of our economy that we need to make investments in to ensure that when we recover from the economic fallout of this pandemic, it is not just back to the status quo, but it is more inclusive. One of the most devastating parts of what has happened since the pandemic is the effect on women in the workplace. We have seen two million women leave the workforce. We’re at a 33 year low for women’s participation and we know the reasons.

So many of those fundamental reasons are addressed in the family’s plan, expanding paid leave so people don’t have to choose between their job and caring for a loved one. Making sure there’s affordable accessible childcare. We saw what happened in the pandemic when there weren’t places to care for our children and educate our youngest learners and to make sure that we can have universal pre-K and two years of free community college so that we can give our workforce of the future the skills they are going to need. For me, this was seeing the American people and responding to their needs in this time of great challenge with great progress.

Nancy: Let’s talk a little bit more about child care. Obviously, it was an issue before the pandemic as you said, what are the structural issues that the plan addresses that existed pre-pandemic?

Congresswoman Clark: Childcare always existed on the thinnest of margins in the best of times. What we saw were massive layoffs of childcare providers, childcare shuttering. My virtual guest last night to the address to Congress was a woman named Jessica, who is a childcare provider in my district. Her story is the story of childcare. She had to close down when the pandemic hit, and it was through a PPP loan, through the CARES Act that she was able to reopen this fall, but the funding in the American Rescue Plan is going to let her build back even stronger.

If she is going to be able to expand and if she had funding and parents and families were able to have universal pre-K, she is going to not only have a thriving business, but families that she cares for are going to be able to save up to $13,000 a year. This is real money in people’s pockets and this is a boost for education system that will not only be great for families, but will also increase our global competitiveness.

Nancy: How are we doing in a global sense? What are other countries doing in terms of their childcare policies and support for families?

Congresswoman Clark: We are behind. We have for too long defined childcare as a private decision between parents and providers. What the President’s speech recognized last night, and the policies that he is putting forth is that childcare is economic infrastructure. If we make this investment, we are making an investment in American families, and in our own economic success, it will not only create jobs, it is going to help us keep those jobs. Childcare really is just one example of what we can look at going back to women in our economy.

96% of childcare providers and small business owners of childcare centers and businesses are women. Predominantly, those are women of color. What we have unlike other countries around the world is a social safety net that is too often built on the back of free labor from women or underpaid labor. Childcare is a glaring example of this. Too many women are working full time or more in childcare, and yet unable to provide for their own families.

What President Biden is saying is not only are we going to expand childcare access for families, but we’re going to address this other very real component for women and women of color and make sure that there is a base salary and wage of $15 an hour for childcare providers, that there’s a path through teach grants to have a higher education that can lead to a higher wage for them. This is a good news story about how we value the work of women, how we make sure that we are building back to an economy that is more equitable and is more fair.

Nancy: Republican Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina gave the Republican rebuttal speech. He didn’t actually address the American Families Plan, but mostly talked about race and the political divide in the country. Let’s play one particular moment and then afterwards, we’ll get your reaction.

Senator Tim Scott: From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all. By doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal. You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly, America is not a racist country.

Nancy: Your thoughts, Representative Clark?

Congresswoman Clark: I think we are at this moment in our country’s history, where we are taking a hard and unblinking look at how racism has permeated every institution that we have. It is long past time that we do this evaluation, that we look at how we bridge the divide, not by saying it doesn’t exist, or by turning away, but by looking at the experience of Black and brown Americans through our history and we plot a different course for the future. Let’s make those ideals that we talk about of equality and justice for all become reality. How do we do that? The blueprint was laid before us last night. We look at it. We talk about racism.

We talk about working together to reform our police so that every mom has the security when they send their children out that they won’t be harmed by anyone because of the color of their skin. Let’s make sure that opportunity exists in our economy for everyone and continuing to deny that racism and the toxic roots of slavery are not in every institution that we have, does not make it go away. It solidifies the effects of racism and our daily lives. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we are so intertwined. Our success is so dependent on the success of our neighbors and that looking at this, all of us unblinkingly is the path forward.

I was so moved to hear Joe Biden take this on directly to talk about George Floyd’s daughter and how his murder had also led us to a place where we could not look away any longer, and that we have to keep fighting for accountability that can lead us to true justice. To hear the president speak about violence against trans people, all of these pieces, when we are looking at where we need to do better, takes us to a stronger community and a stronger country. I am delighted that that’s where this administration’s focus is, pulling these pieces together so that we can truly emerge from this pandemic in a place of strength and community.

Nancy: All good stuff, but it may just come down to whether or not the Democrats have a plan for how to pay for all of these things. That’s going to be a big part of this as it winds its way through Congress. Tell us what’s the proposal for how to pay for all of this?

Congresswoman Clark: I think what the president laid out last night is right. Let’s reward work and not wealth. Let’s ask the wealthy who nobody begrudges their success, but let’s ask them to pay their fair share and to make sure that we are rebalancing this economy and the investments we need to make so that working families around this country are put first and that those with great wealth, we’re talking about the top of three 10th percent of Americans in wealth in this country are pulling their fair weight.

That goes for large corporations. Some of our largest like Amazon paid zero in taxes, while we have 12 million children in this country going to bed hungry every night. It is long time that we make sure that everyone contributes fairly and equitably so we can make these investments in the American family and in their success.

Nancy: Congresswoman Katherine Clark represents the Fifth District of Massachusetts, Representative Clark, thanks so much for joining us.

Congresswoman Clark: Thank you, Nancy. So good to be with you.

Nancy: We’re going to continue the conversation about what this means for women. We’re joined by C. Nicole Mason, President, and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Nicole, welcome back to the show.

Nicole Mason: Thank you for having me, Nancy. It’s really an exciting time to be here having this conversation.

Nancy: Katie B. Garner Executive Director of the International Association of Maternal Action and Scholarship. Katie, good to have you with us.

Katie B. Garner: Hello, Nancy. Thank you so much. Definitely, a pleasure to be here.

Nancy: Nicole, let’s start with you. We had you on the show a few weeks back after President Joe Biden introduced his infrastructure plan which included $400 billion for the care economy, the American Families Plan, which he unveiled last night was a promised follow-up. What are your initial reactions?

Nicole: I think the American Families Plan is a very ambitious transformative package that will deliver for the American people who have been crunched by rising housing costs, childcare costs, and other expenses. It really takes some of the burden off of them. I spent all night crunching the numbers and the savings are going to be tremendous directly to families. It’s what we’ve been asking for and what we’ve needed for so long. I’m ready to see it be delivered to the people.

Nancy: Katie, do you have anything to add in terms of the overall response?

Katie: I think my first reaction to this was very much as Nicole’s was. I think everybody who has been doing this for several decades, myself included, have been asking for this type of support that very much puts us in line with what other countries are doing. That’s a huge win. I think for the most part, my reaction has been that this is smart policy development.

Historically we’ve had a hard time getting legislation through that targets historically marginalized communities specifically and while this plan does not leave those folks out of the equation, there’s plenty of support for those that are just trying to get a grab on the middle class and keep that hold there. I think that targeting both those aspects is really critical to having this go through.

Nancy: Even prior to the pandemic, you had spent time traveling around the country talking to women and to mothers about their experiences and the tough choices they have to make to take care of their family and work or career. Tell us a little bit about that. What did you hear from women as you traveled around the country?

Katie: I think that’s been one of my big takeaways. Is that when you talk to women about whether or not they want to go back to what life was like before COVID, the answers are resounding no, because women were not thriving then. We’re not just talking those that we consider to be on the cusp under traditional circumstances single mothers, mothers of color, but really across the board, mothers have felt under-supported and for good reason.

I think the two things that really tug at me are the number of women that feel that they can’t have a second child because the cost of childcare is just so high for them. I don’t think that having a second child should be something that is that impossible to ask for or to want. The number of women that have said that they’re working shifts that are totally opposite of their spouse and not seeing that person at all and the strain that, that puts on families, that’s the only way that they can make the childcare costs numbers work for them. Those are really hard things to hear that childcare is ultimately changing the fabric of American families and not for the better.

Nancy: The pandemic made that so much harder. Nicole, so many women and particularly women of color have been forced to leave the workforce over the last year. What does this plan do to support re-entry?

Nicole: It does a lot. One of the chief reasons why women exited the workforce en masse, especially around August and September is because of school closers and daycare closers, inadequate care. This plan does much to support not only childcare workers but also families directly. I spent the evening crunching the numbers and under Biden’s plan in New York City, for example, families would say $11,000 a year on infant care, more than $4,000 on care for four-year-olds.

That is tremendous, that’s money in the pockets of families. When women feel like they have high-quality childcare, they feel comfortable going to work. They can look for a job, they can sustain employment over time. This plan is a real game-changer for families and work [inaudible 00:18:42]

Nancy: Given the disproportionate impact the pandemic had on women of color, is that going to be addressed in this plan?

Nicole: It is addressed in this plan, especially when we talk about care workers. The $40 billion per year, and the infrastructure plan for care workers is really significant because many of those workers, most of those workers are women of color. Raising the wages there and making sure that they can earn a living wage.

Then, when we think about Biden’s plan around childcare, if you earn the state median income, you only pay 7% of your income on care, or if you are up to 150%, that will be significant in terms of, again, money directly going back into people’s pockets and for women of color, and some women who have lower than the state median earnings, they will pay nothing for care, and making this plan more accessible, making more families be able to tap into childcare supports will go a long way to improving women’s long-term and short-term economic security and well-being.

Nancy: Nicole, a lot has been said about whether care is part of infrastructure. What does that mean exactly? Does this create a care infrastructure and what does that mean?

Nicole: The American Families Plan is a start to creating a really robust and strong childcare infrastructure in the United States. It’s long overdue. When I think about care and how I think childcare, eldercare, and how we should think about it, we should think about childcare as a public good because we know that we’ve seen it during the pandemic that when women lost care they exited the workforce and that impacted their earnings and it also impacted the strength of the economy.

Thinking about childcare as a necessity, a public good, the same way we do roads and bridges would go a long way to making sure that women are able to sustain employment, but also would contribute so much if we had the labor force participation say of women like the country of Norway, $16.9 billion a year to the GDP. When we think about the benefits of childcare for all or universal childcare system, we know that it benefits women, it benefits families, it benefits employers, and definitely benefits the economy.

Nancy: Katie, when you talk to mothers around the country, what do you hear besides childcare? What are the issues that come up that they need and where do we see that in this plan?

Katie: I think that’s one of the things that is missing. Is that a lot of mothers want to have humane work conditions and work conditions that recognize care work as being part of people’s lives. Right now, that is not something that we see much of. I’ve talked to several women that are actually working full time to be in the red because childcare costs so much.

Feminized labor is so undervalued that we’re in this situation where women are having to step out of work or else rack up credit card bills just to pay for their pants to stay on the career ladder. We need work that is fair, equitably reimbursed, and I think we need to look at how we’ve structured this in terms of white women oftentimes relying on Black and brown women to stay in the workforce. I don’t know if that’s fully addressed in this plan as some of those cultural aspects that have been brewing for quite some time.

Nancy: Family medical leave is one of the aspects that seems like that would also help to be able to take time off work to take care of your family when someone’s sick?

Katie: Absolutely. Again, this is something that– We have one in four women right now going back within two weeks of giving birth. I’ve heard from women that have not used that time, right after birth even when their child’s in the NICU because they don’t want to use up their vacation time during a time when their child’s being cared for in the hospital. These are inhumane conditions that we would look at another country doing and be very upset with, but we’re permitting that here I think in large part because of rugged individualism.

Nancy: Okay. Thanks so much, Nicole, Katie. Nicole Mason is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Katie B. Garner is the Executive Director of the International Association of Maternal Action and Scholarship. Thanks so much to you both.

Katie: Thank you so much.


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