April 27, 2021

Warren, Jones and Colleagues Reintroduce Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act and Call for President Biden to Invest $700 Billion in Child Care

Warren and Jones to hold a media availability TODAY at 10:30 am ET to reintroduce the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act

Bill Text (PDF) | One-Pager (PDF) 

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-NY-17) today reintroduced the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, a comprehensive and bicameral bill that will ensure that every family has access to high-quality, affordable child care and early learning opportunities by establishing a network of federally-supported, locally administered child care options. 

Joining the legislation as cosponsors are Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernard Sanders (I-Ver.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with  Representatives André Carson (D-Ind.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (D-Ill.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and Grace Meng (D-NY.). 

The American Rescue Plan included more than $40 billion for child care programs, which fulfilled Senator Warren's call for much-needed emergency relief funding. However, it is not a long-term solution to the lack of affordable, high quality child care for working families. Child care providers, who already operated on razor-thin margins, have experienced closures, reduced enrollment, and increased operating costs throughout the pandemic. By one estimate, the combined relief funds are enough to fill this revenue gap for less than six months.

The Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act would have lasting positive effects, not just on children and families, but on the economy at large. A recent study from the National Women's Law Center and the Center on Poverty and Social Policy found that providing affordable, high-quality child care to every family that needs it would increase the number of women with young children working full time by 17%, narrow the pay gap between women and men, and increase women's lifetime earnings by nearly $100,000 on average, with a corresponding increase in their savings and Social Security benefits.

Lack of access to high-quality, affordable child care prevents parents from fully participating in the workforce, holding them back from career and educational opportunities and placing a drag on our entire economy. Lack of affordable, high-quality care also means many children in the U.S. start kindergarten without the skills they need to reach their full potential.

"We must invest $700 billion to fix our broken child care system and ensure that women and families are not left behind in our recovery. Our legislation would guarantee all parents affordable access to safe and nurturing child care and early learning opportunities for their kids," said Senator Warren. "Expanding quality child care would create jobs, increase productivity, and have lifelong benefits for children's development and growth."

"Today, in more than half the states in America, a year of child care costs more than a year of in-state college tuition," said Representative Jones. "In Westchester County in my district, center-based care for an infant costs $21,000/year -- nearly the entire annual income of a family living at the federal poverty line. Our childcare system is deeply broken, and those who can least afford it are paying the highest price as a result. If we want a country, and an economy, that works for all Americans, we need universal child care. We need the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act. Our bill would transform child care as we know it in America by making it free of cost for families at or below 200% of the federal poverty line and capping costs at 7% of household income for families making more. As we work to Build Back Better, advancing universal child care is essential to ensuring an equitable and just economic recovery for all communities, which is why I'm proud to introduce this critical legislation."

"Even before the pandemic our child care system was broken; it's failing working families, and especially working mothers. Now is the time to think big and bold to tear down the inequities working mothers and other parents face, and to tear down barriers to quality early education proven to set children up for long-term success," Senator Wyden said. "If we want to recover from the economic catastrophe of the last year, America needs a $700 billion investment in families by making affordable child care a reality for everyone."

The legislation would fund a system of locally-run, affordable, and high-quality child care programs inspired by the bipartisan Comprehensive Child Development Bill of 1971, which was vetoed by President Nixon. The lawmakers' proposal builds on the successes of both the federal Head Start program and the U.S. Department of Defense military child care program. 

The Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act:

  • Ensures universal access: This legislation provides a mandatory federal investment to establish and support a network of locally-run Child Care and Early Learning Centers and Family Child Care Homes so that every family, regardless of their income or employment, can access high-quality, affordable child care options for their children from birth to school entry.  
  • Guarantees affordability: Families below 200% of the federal poverty line (about $53,000 for a family of four) could access these child care options at zero cost. Families with higher incomes would pay a subsidized fee on a sliding scale based on their income, as in the military child care program. No family would pay more than 7% of their income for these public child care options.  
  • Invests in child care workers: The legislation ensures parity by requiring that wages and benefits for child care workers be comparable to those of similarly-credentialed local public school teachers, and invests in worker training and professional development modeled after the military child care program.  
  • Includes pre-Kindergarten educational services: The network of Centers and Family Child Care Homes would provide pre-K curriculum and educational services for children before they enter kindergarten. This legislation would also incentivize states and cities to expand their investments in early childhood education.  
  • Builds on existing programs: The legislation builds on the successful federal Head Start program to create a universal system for families that cannot access Head Start services, while preserving the Head Start program for families eligible for those services. It also maintains the Child Care and Development Fund to help low-income families access other care options, including extended hours and afterschool care for children up to age 13.  
  • Establishes Universal Child Care without increasing the deficit: After accounting for the economic impacts of this legislation, Moody's Analytics estimates that the program would cost the federal government approximately $70 billion per year or $700 billion over 10 years. Senator Warren's proposed Ultra-Millionaire Tax is projected to raise more than four times that amount of revenue over the same period. Consequently, if Congress funded this program using revenue from Senator Warren's proposed Ultra-Millionaire Tax, the program would not increase the deficit.

The Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act has been endorsed by the National Women's Law Center; the Center for Law and Social Policy; the National Education Association; the American Federation of Teachers; the Service Employees International Union; Zero to Three; Save the Children; All Our Kin; the Coalition for Social Justice; Community Change Action; and Neighborhood Villages; Mass. Senate President Karen E. Spilka; Mass. Speaker Ron Mariano; Mass. State Senator Adam Gomes, Hampden District and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities; Mass. State Senator Jason Lewis, Fifth Middlesex District and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education; Mass. State Representative Mike Finn, 6th Hampden District and House Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities; Mass. State Representative Alice H. Peisch, 14th Norfolk District and House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education; Early Education for All (Massachusetts); American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); and UnidosUS.

"Access to high quality childcare and early education create strong working families, supports businesses and the innovation economy, and ultimately benefits all residents. The only way to go 'back to better' and create a resilient and thriving Commonwealth is through providing the option of universal childcare," said Massachusetts Senate President Karen E. Spilka. "The time is now. I am grateful for Senator Warren's policy proposals and advocacy to address this issue nationally, and I look forward to joining my colleagues in developing and implementing childcare solutions for Massachusetts."

"Universal child care is critical to ensuring that every working family has access to affordable child care and early learning opportunities through public child care options," said Massachusetts State Senator Adam Gomes. "This legislation will support our low-income families who struggle from paycheck to paycheck while trying to choose which bill they can pay and which they can put off; it will lift them through this everyday struggle. I'm happy to offer my support on this tremendous bill." 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges in early education and childcare that existed even before the pandemic: too many working families struggle to afford the high costs; too many providers are barely able to survive; the early educator workforce is undervalued and underpaid; and our early education and care system is not meeting the needs of our employers and economy," said State Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and lead sponsor of a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature that would establish a system of universal early education and child care. "Especially in light of the growing consensus among the public, the business community and policymakers that high-quality, affordable, accessible early education and childcare are indispensable, I'm proud to support Senator Warren's Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act."

"Providing access to affordable and accessible childcare and early education is essential to setting children up for academic success and narrowing the persistent achievement gaps we see across the country," said Massachusetts State Representative Alice Peisch. "While the pandemic highlighted the chronic issues in childcare, this sector has needed assistance and reform for many years. I join my colleagues in the Massachusetts legislature in thanking Senator Warren and Assistant Speaker of the House Clark for spearheading this important initiative at the federal level, and I look forward to continuing to work with them on this critical issue for the residents of the Commonwealth and the nation."

Senator Warren has been leading the charge for support for the child care industry:

  • Senator Warren first announced her proposal in February 2019. 
  • In October 2017, Senator Warren delivered a speech at the National Women's Law Center in which she spoke about her experiences as a mother juggling school, work, and raising her two young children, and about the urgent need for government to help lower the cost of child care and truly invest in America's children.
  •  Last week, Senator Warren led a call for President Biden to invest $700 billion over 10 years through the American Families Plan to fix the nation's broken child care system.
  • In March 2021, Senators Warren, Smith, Wyden, Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio), and Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), announced that they plan to introduce a new bill allocating mandatory funding to build child care availability over the long term and treat child care like the critical infrastructure that it is for families.
  • Senator Warren and Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), published an op-ed on CNN.com on why we need big and bold improvements to the caregiving industry in America.
  • In August 2020, Senators Warren and Smith called on Senate leadership to prioritize the inclusion of their plan for a $50 billion child care bailout in the next COVID-19 relief package.
  • In May 2020, Senators Warren and Smith joined Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), in introducing the Child Care is Essential Act, which would create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund within the existing Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program.
  • In April 2020, Senator Warren and Representative Khanna (D-Calif.) called for essential workers to be among the beneficiaries of child care investments in the introduction of their Essential Workers Bill of Rights.
  • In a New York Times op-ed published in July, Senator Warren reiterated the need to secure child care funds and also called for "long-term investments so more families can find affordable, high-quality, and safe care in the future."
  • In April 2020, Senators Warren and Smith announced their plan for a $50 billion child care bailout.
  • In March 2020, Senators Warren and Smith led their colleagues in urging Senate leadership to include support for the child care sector in the COVID-19 relief package that became the CARES Act.