June 23, 2021

At Hearing, Warren Highlights Need for Robust Investment in Child Care to Support Economic Recovery

Warren: "As we look ahead to our post-pandemic economy, child care is essential for helping parents get back to work."

Event livestream here

Washington, D.C. - Today, chairing a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Policy, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered remarks on the importance of robust investments in quality, affordable child care as the country looks ahead to a post-pandemic recovery. 

The hearing follows a letter she led yesterday with more than 100 Senate and House colleagues calling on congressional leadership to provide at least $700 billion of direct spending over 10 years for the child care industry in the upcoming infrastructure package. 

Watch the hearing HERE

Transcript: The Role of Child Care in an Equitable Post-Pandemic Economy
U.S. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Policy
Opening Statement from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Senator Warren: Good afternoon everyone. I want to welcome my colleagues and all of our witnesses to this hearing of the Banking Committee's Economic Policy Subcommittee. And I want to thank Senator Kennedy for working with me and my staff to make this a successful hearing.

I believe this may be the first hearing about child care in the history of the Banking Committee. But really, this shouldn't be surprising: we are here to talk about our economy and economic recovery, and child care is a critical part of how our economic recovery plays out and what our economy will look like going forward. 

As we look ahead to our post-pandemic economy, child care is essential for helping parents get back to work. A national survey found that nearly 20 percent of working parents left the workforce or reduced their hours solely due to a lack of child care. And 26 percent of women who became unemployed during the pandemic attributed this to a lack of child care. 

In order for families to return to work, they need safe, reliable, and affordable child care. Without it, many parents will find that they are struggling to interview for jobs, let alone to hold down a job or advance in their careers. A strong economic recovery depends on solving this problem. 

High-quality child care and early learning is about parent's jobs, but it is also about early learning for children. A mountain of evidence shows that high-quality early learning supports important brain development, helps children get ready for school, and leads to higher earnings and better outcomes throughout a child's life. For every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood programs, study and study shows that we get a return of somewhere between four and nine dollars back on down the line.

New research has found that spending on programs that support children's health and well-being reduce medical costs, improve college attendance, and lead to higher earnings and higher tax payments. In other words, these programs pay for themselves by the time the children become adults. This isn't just a nice thing to do: it's a smart investment that will yield returns for our country's future. 

And finally, we need to address the fact that child care providers are seriously underpaid. Today, child care workers earn an average of just $12 an hour. Child care providers are some of our nation's most important early teachers, but our nation has undervalued the work they do for far too long. 95% of child care providers are women, and they are disproportionately women of color. Ensuring that child care jobs are good jobs with fair pay and benefits, and that jobs that will support families while doing this essential work will permit child care workers to stay in the field, to build up expertise, and to improve the care they offer to our children.

For generations, we have told parents that when it comes to finding quality, affordable child care, they're on their own. That's bad for parents, bad for babies, and bad for child care workers. There's a reason that child care was front and center in President Biden's American Families Plan. This is critical infrastructure that makes all other work possible. I'm very concerned about the bipartisan framework released last week that didn't include a word - not one word - about child care. An infrastructure plan that doesn't include child care does not address the actual challenges facing families in Massachusetts or anywhere else around the country. Now is not the time to abandon what President Biden has proposed. Now is the time to expand it.

I'm fighting for a $700 billion federal investment to make sure that every single family who needs it can find safe, affordable child care. That's good for parents, it's good for children, it's good for providers, and it's good for our whole economy.

So that's why we're here today - to understand the problem and to figure out how to address the challenges facing families and build a stronger economy that works for all of us.

Our first witness, Fatima Goss Graves is the President and CEO of the National Women's Law Center, where she has spent her career fighting to advance opportunities for women and girls. 

Next, we'll hear from Dr. Betsey Stevenson, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan. Dr. Stevenson has served on the Council of Economic Advisors as an advisor on social policy and labor market issues and as chief economist at the Department of Labor. 

We're lucky to be joined today by Bernadette Ngoh, a founder of Trusted Care, a family child care program in West Haven, Connecticut. As a family child care provider, Ms. Ngoh operates her program 24 hours a day - think about that - and is committed to quality, equity, accessibility, and community support. 

After Ms. Ngoh, we'll hear from Abby M. McCloskey, the founder and principal of McCloskey Policy LLC, a research and consulting firm serving business and political leaders across the country. 

And finally, we are joined by Rachel Greszler, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, whose work focuses on retirement and labor policies, as well as workplace and family issues. 

The pandemic has exposed the challenges that have faced working families and child care providers for decades. We have an historic opportunity right now to make sure that every family that needs it can find and afford child care, and that every child care provider earns a living wage with good benefits. 

So I want to thank all our witnesses for joining us today. I look forward to hearing your testimony.