Bill promises to lower childcare costs for families, increase pay for workers

Democratic Senators reintroduced the bill on Thursday.
Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 7:20 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - As childcare centers across the nation have wait lists, staffing shortages, and rising costs, democratic Senators are reintroducing a bill that they believe will decrease the burden for families.

The Childcare for Working Families Act, backed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), would cap family expenditures at 7% of their income. Lawmakers said that would cut costs to around $10 or less a day for most parents.

The bill would also expand access to Pre-K and Head Start programs in addition to increasing worker wages.

“You know, everybody’s talking about we want people to be able to go to work. We want people to be able to be productive. We want our economy to work. We want our businesses to thrive. We want our families to thrive. What is the biggest barrier to all of that right now is childcare. People cannot participate in the economy if there’s no place to leave their kids,” said Sen. Murray.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is a co-sponsor of the bill. When asked if he thought Republicans would support it, he said “employers are saying ‘we can’t hire people. Unemployment rate is historically low. We can’t hire people.’ Well, one of the reasons is that you’ve got millions of people out of the workforce simply for the reason that they can’t find high quality, affordable childcare. And if they could, they’d bring their skills into the workforce. The economy would be more productive. These employers would have great workers. So I know my Republican colleagues are hearing the very same thing.”

Kaine added, most families want high quality workers to staff their daycares. Yet he said many childcare workers can’t make a living wage. Murray said her bill provides a solution for those workers.

“You know, I talk to parents all the time who drop their kid off at childcare for the first time. They’re at their job. They finally feel comfortable. Their child likes the worker. They come home crying the next day because that worker’s gone. Why? I go back and ask them- because they took a job at McDonald’s for $15 an hour more than they were getting paid there. You can’t ask people to work for nothing. And women and men in the workforce, in the childcare provider world need an income to take care of their own families. That’s why part of this bill (that’s) so important, is we provide grants to providers to be able to increase their salaries so they have a steady workforce,” said Murray.

The lawmakers add the bill will help women reenter the workforce after they disproportionately left their careers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It will help women and men, but women in particular did leave the workforce during the economy. Why? There was nowhere to leave their kids. Why? Because child care centers shut down,” said Murray. “...So people who had childcare, essential workers, our nurses, our firefighters, all of a sudden had nowhere to leave their kids. And, that downturn really impacted women and their ability to go to work,” said Murray.

When asked how Congress would pay for the bill, Murray said “our childcare bill, if we get it passed, will be paid for as part of the ongoing budget and appropriations process that we do here.”

Some Senate Republicans have signaled they’re open to talking about the issue. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) offered his own solution.

“The cost of raising kids is just totally out of control,” said Sen. Hawley. He added “I would create a tax cut for parents that would apply to every parent in American who earns any kind of income.”