May 27, 2021

Warren, Wyden, Brown, Casey, Smith Introduce New Bill to Build Child Care Infrastructure and Availability

Bill comes on the heels of a report demonstrating the critical need to expand and invest in American child care system.

Bill Text | One-pager | Section-by-Section 

Washington, D.C. – Today, United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sherrod Brown  (D-Ohio.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced 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.

Last week, Senators Warren, Wyden, Smith, Assistant Speaker of the House Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), and Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) released a new report highlighting the critical need to expand and invest in our child care system and calling for $700 billion to support investments in child care as the country heads towards a post-pandemic economic recovery.

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed us what working families have always known: child care is critical infrastructure. As our country heads towards a post-pandemic economic recovery, we need to prioritize a robust federal investment in child care to raise the wages of every child care worker and guarantee affordable care for every family, and this legislation will help us do just that,” said Senator Warren. 

“Child care is essential to the economic recovery of working families, especially working mothers, in Oregon and across the nation. Due to a lack of child care options and other policies that fail to support women in the workforce, like the absence of comprehensive paid leave, millions of women have been forced out of the workforce since the onset of the pandemic. The lack of child care was dire before COVID-19 struck – now it’s a five-alarm fire,” Senator Wyden said. “It’s past time the federal government treat child care as the critical infrastructure it is and build a system that doesn't leave families behind. Every family deserves access to affordable, high-quality child care and the ability to choose the type of care that best meets their unique needs. Our Building Child Care for a Better Future Act would help ensure a more equitable, resilient child care infrastructure for all families.”  

“Closing a child care center not only impacts the children and the workers at that facility, but it also means parents have to consider other options like leaving the workforce to ensure their children are cared for. More often than not, women are the ones making those difficult decisions,” said Senator Brown. “The pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities in our child care system and made clear that we need comprehensive investments to get the industry back on solid footing. Building out our child care infrastructure and investing in the child care workforce will help strengthen the industry and working families’ economic security.”

“We need to think about childcare as infrastructure—just like roads and broadband—providing high-quality, affordable, safe childcare helps ensure that parents are able to work,” said Senator Smith. “I hear about the value of childcare just as much from businesses, economic development experts and chambers of commerce as I do from families with children. And it’s essential to helping the economy recover from COVID-19. Lack of access to affordable, convenient childcare has forced many—mostly women and people of color—to leave the labor force to care for their children during the pandemic. The Building Child Care for a Better Future Act is one of the many steps Congress must take to lift up families, providers and our economy.”

The need for affordable and reliable child care is vital as working families begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. A national survey found that a quarter of women who became unemployed during the pandemic attributed this to a lack of child care. A report by the Center for American Progress estimated the cost of mothers leaving the workforce and reducing work hours to take care of their children at $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity. Investing in a broadly accessible child care system will provide stability and economic relief, increase the size of the labor force and workforce productivity and result in higher lifetime earnings and savings for women. 

The senators’ new child care bill will help close the child care gap by providing new permanent federal funding to help child care providers invest in facility upgrades, support new child care providers to open, help existing providers expand or upgrade their programs, train and invest in the child care workforce, and provide other technical and financial support to child care providers. 

The Building Child Care for a Better Future Act would: 

  • Expand Mandatory Child Care Funding: Permanently increase annual funding to the Child Care Entitlement to States (CCES) program to $10 billion per year. This program received an emergency infusion of approximately $633 million per year in the American Rescue Plan.
  • Provide Mandatory Funding to Improve Child Care Supply, Quality and Affordability: Create a new, $5 billion per year permanent grant program to improve child care supply, quality and affordability, particularly in areas that lack options for affordable child care.

The Building Child Care for a Better Future Act was endorsed by Child Welfare League of America, Our Children Oregon, ZERO TO THREE, Child Care Aware of America, First Focus Campaign for Children, Save the Children, National Education Association, National Women’s Law Center, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Family Forward, Early Care & Education Consortium, and Kindercare. Read more about their support here.

Last month, Warren, Wyden, and colleagues reintroduced the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, a comprehensive bill that would ensure every family has access to affordable child care and that child care workers are paid a livable wage equivalent to other educators with similar training. The legislation would have enormous benefits for families and the economy, providing millions of new jobs and ensuring that women and families can enter the workforce and go to school without being held back by their child care needs.