February 08, 2023

Warren, Sherrill, Lawmakers Unveil New Child Care Bill

Building off the President’s State of the Union address, the Child Care for Every Community Act would significantly reduce the cost of child care for every American family.

Bill Text (PDF) | One-Pager (PDF)

Washington, DC -- United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and over three dozen lawmakers unveiled new legislation that would expand access to affordable child care to every American family, offer high-quality early education to every child, and create good jobs for our early educators. Half of families nationwide would pay no more than $10 a day for child care, and all families would see their child care costs capped. A sliding scale will ensure that child care is  significantly more affordable based on families’ income, similar to the U.S. military child care program.

Joining the legislation as cosponsors are Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). 

The bill is being introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and is cosponsored by Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), delegate to the United States House of Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton, Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), Greg Casar (D-Texas), Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Greg Landsman (D-Ohio), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-N.J.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Pa.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Ma.), and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).

“A lack of child care is holding back our economy and keeping parents out of the workforce – it’s giving lie to the notion that there’s equal opportunity in our country,” said Senator Warren. “We can’t build a future by shortchanging our babies and families. The more we invest in child care, the better for our families, our small businesses and our entire economy.”

“Our nation’s economy is on the rise but to guarantee its strength and durability, we need to invest in childcare,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill. “I am proud to work with Senator Warren on this legislation that will help American families access the affordable, high-quality child care they need and relieve the labor shortages that I continue to hear about from New Jersey businesses. Fixing the childcare crisis will help our full economic recovery and help parents get back into to workforce— it’s time to make this a top priority in Congress.”

“Our child care system is deeply broken, leaving millions of parents struggling to find and afford care and providers earning so little that they need help putting food on the table,” said Rep. Sara Jacobs. “In San Diego alone, many families pay more than 40% of their income on child care – well above what’s considered affordable. Small or temporary fixes won’t cut it; we need big, wholesale change to our care economy to support kids and families across the country. The Child Care for Every Community Act will guarantee universal access and affordability of child care and early learning for every family while investing in child care workers.”

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

"There are countless parents who want to work to provide for their families but simply can't because there is no affordable child care option for them," Senator Wyden said. "The financial and emotional strain of finding affordable, quality child care isn't something anyone should face. Working parents -- especially working moms -- need more support and I'm all in to lower the cost of quality child care in every community to secure a better future for generations to come."

“In the richest country on earth, we must make sure that every family in America has access to high quality childcare and that childcare workers receive much higher wages and much better benefits,” said Senator Sanders. “We can no longer tolerate a dysfunctional childcare system that costs, on average, $15,000 per child each year, where there are not enough childcare slots for our kids and where the average childcare worker makes less than a doggy day care worker.  That’s not the way to treat our youngest children – the future of our country – or the people who care for them each day.”

“Access to childcare is essential, both for the safety and healthy development of our kids, and because it allows parents the freedom to pursue their careers and contribute to the economy,” said Senator Smith. “But right now, childcare is too expensive and inaccessible for many families. I am proud to cosponsor this legislation which would ensure every family has access to high-quality, affordable childcare so that our kids, their parents, and our economy can reach their full potential.” 

“Families across the country are facing an impossible choice between taking time off work to care for their child or shelling out for high-cost child care. Our economy, our families, and our children are stronger when all families have access to high-quality child care,” said Senator Markey. “This extends to early educators, who are underpaid and overworked as they take on the awesome responsibility of caring for our nation’s children from infancy to adolescence. Early educators, parents and guardians are heroes, and even heroes need help.”

“It’s past time for our country to make critical, bold investments in child care,” said Senator Padilla. “For working parents, access to quality child care is just as critical as access to safe roads and reliable broadband. I’m proud to join Senator Warren on this important legislation to make meaningful, transformative investments that will ensure that every family can find and afford high-quality child care. The Child Care for Every Community Act will not only strengthen our families, it will also benefit our entire economy.”

“Affordable, high-quality child care helps kids grow up healthy and allows parents to have more upward mobility,” said Senator Whitehouse. “The Care for Every Community Act will help ensure every Rhode Island family has access to reliable child care and will make long overdue investments in our caregiving workforce.”  

“Every American family deserves access to affordable child care,” said Senator Blumenthal. “As working parents in Connecticut and across the country spend more and more of their paychecks on early learning opportunities, our legislation caps prices and invests in their children's long-term development. Building on the success of Head Start, supporting child care workers, and bringing down costs are essential to helping our next generation succeed.” 

"Access to affordable childcare was at a crisis point before the pandemic; the extra strain of COVID-19 revealed just how broken our childcare system is—for kids, parents and workers alike. The crisis for families seeking childcare is forcing many women out of the workforce entirely. We can’t claim to be a country that values families, mothers, and children when we don’t make affordable childcare a priority,” said Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers. “Sen. Warren and Rep. Sherrill know what it's like to balance work and childcare--they have been in the same situation as millions of parents who try to find and pay for childcare. Their Child Care for Every Community Act would put us on a path to guaranteeing that every family in America has access to high-quality, affordable childcare, and ensuring childcare workers have a voice to advocate for their profession and for what kids need, and to earn wages that enable them to support their own families."

“Every family deserves access to high-quality, affordable child care and early learning. The early childhood workforce - overwhelmingly women and disproportionately women of color - who support our families and communities deserve fair compensation. And yet for too long, child care has been consistently underfunded and neglected, leaving families and providers facing impossible choices,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO, National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). “We applaud Senator Warren’s continued focus on child care and are excited to support the Child Care for Every Community Act, which will boost investment in the sector and increase access to child care and early learning services for all. Investing in child care as the backbone of the economy will reduce the economic strain facing working families across the country.”

“Senator Warren shares Child Care Aware of America’s vision that all families have access to affordable, high-quality child care,” said Michelle McCready, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Child Care Aware of America. “We appreciate the Senator’s leadership on child care and early learning policy, and we look forward to continuing to push for progress that benefits families, educators and communities.”  

“As an organization whose mission it is to advance issues that impact small businesses, access to high-quality, affordable child care and early learning opportunities is vital to creating a thriving small business economy,” said Chanda Causer, Executive Director, Main Street Alliance. “Too many small business owners and employees face financial hardships from the rising costs of taking care of one’s family. Nearly one-third of American families report spending 20 percent or more of their annual household income on childcare. The Child Care for Every Community Act will help small businesses across the country by ensuring families of small businesses will have universal access to affordable, high-quality learning opportunities. Legislation like the Child Care for Every Community  Act is a step toward strengthening the small business economy.

“The early education and care system is deeply broken,” said Naila Bolus, CEO of the national early care and education nonprofit Jumpstart for Young Children, Inc. “Families are getting squeezed by the high cost of care while providers lack sufficient resources to compensate and retain their dedicated staff. The Child Care for Every Community Act tackles family affordability and educator compensation head on, while emphasizing the importance of effective programming including critical social-emotional development so that children can thrive. Jumpstart is pleased to see Senator Warren’s and Representative Sherrill’s continued leadership and comprehensive approach to strengthening early education and care for the nation. Jumpstart looks forward to collaborating to ensure it advances in this Congress.”

“UnidosUS is proud to endorse the Child Care for Every Community (CCEC) Act, which would expand access to child care by providing mandatory federal investments and ensuring that fees are affordable based on a families’ income. Child care is one of the highest costs in a family’s monthly budget, and is often a larger expense than the cost of housing, transportation, or food—making it difficult to make ends meet,” said Amalia Chamorro, Director of Education Policy with UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the nation. “In fact, 46% of Latino families have not received any child care since their child’s birth and, for the Latino families that do, they spend 14.9% of their monthly income on child care, which often places them in a position of choosing between a job and caring for their children. This bill would remedy these challenges by giving all families access to affordable, high-quality child care programs.”

“The Child Care for Every Community Act will help put us on a path to solve our country’s child care crisis, which is exacting a terrible toll on families, businesses, and our economy,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director and CEO of MomsRising. “Our child care system was in crisis long before COVID, and the pandemic pushed it to the edge of collapse. We hear from MomsRising members every day who have been forced out of the jobs they need because they cannot find or afford child care. Some have been stuck on waitlists for years. Others are struggling to afford food and housing because the high cost of child care takes up so much of their paychecks. We thank Sen. Warren for introducing this bill, which would help increase access to the affordable, quality child care that moms, kids, businesses and our economy need.”

The Child Care for Every Community Act will ensure that every family in every community has access to high-quality, affordable child care and early learning opportunities by establishing a network of federally-supported, locally-administered child care options. These high-quality, affordable child care and early learning options will provide every child in America with a fair opportunity to reach their full potential and will improve economic, child development, and employment outcomes for children and families. The legislation:

  • 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: Half of families nationwide will pay no more than $10 a day for child care, and all families would see their child care costs capped.  A sliding scale will ensure that fees are affordable based on families’ income, as in the U.S. military child care program.  Higher-income families would pay no more than 7% of their income, while lower-income families making less than 75% of their state median income would be fully subsidized.
    • In Massachusetts, a family with an infant and a 2-year-old making $130,125 would pay no more than $10 per day, or $200 per month, down from the current average cost of $3,128 per month.
    • In New Jersey, a family with an infant and a 2-year-old making $130,000 would pay no more than $10 per day, or $200 per month, down from the current average cost of $2,635 per month.
  • Provides high-quality, essential developmental services: Centers and Family Child Care Homes will meet high quality standards based on current U.S. military child care and the Head Start program standards. Providers would receive support and time to meet new requirements, which would focus on early learning and social-emotional development. Like Head Start, the program would offer a full range of comprehensive mental and physical health, dental, and other services to children who need them in a safe and nurturing environment that promotes children’s holistic growth and development.
  • Is locally-administered and federally-supported: As originally envisioned in the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971, the federal government would partner with local sponsors – cities, school districts, states, counties, tribal organizations, or other nonprofit community entities – to administer the program in a way that prioritizes local community needs and coheres early childhood systems. These sponsors would act as local “hubs” by establishing networks of Child Care and Early Learning Centers and Family Child Care Homes options for families, mirroring options currently available to military families. 
  • 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.

The bill is endorsed by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Coalition for Social Justice, Community Change Action, Main Street Alliance, MomsRising, Save the Children, Small Business Majority, UnidosUS, Jumpstart for Young Children, Inc, and P Street.