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More than 8 million children could benefit from subsidized child care under democratic plan

President Joe Biden and Democrats say they want to do something big about child care. A new report Thursday can give you an idea of ​​the extent of their thinking.

The objective of the report is a proposal that Biden and Democrats hope to include in the sweeping multibillion-dollar spending legislation they plan to enact this fall. The proposal would fund preschool programs and subsidize child care on a sliding scale linked to financial status, with the goal of ensuring that no family expenses exceed 7% of household income.

It would be a significant change. Right now, the average cost of child care in the United States is 10% of family income or maybe more, depending on How? ‘Or’ What you calculate he.

But how many Americans would benefit from the Democratic proposal? This is the subject of Thursday’s report, which emanates from a liberal think tank, the Foundation of the Century, and two advocacy groups, the Center for Law and Social Policy with the National Center for Women’s Rights.

The report, which the groups shared with HuffPost ahead of its publication, says more than 8 million young children would be in these subsidized preschool or child care programs if the Democratic plan takes full effect.

To give you an idea of ​​the scale, the number of young children receiving subsidized care is now less than 1 million, according to the report. This is done primarily through a limited set of federal grants to states that the new Democratic initiative would largely replace.

“This report adds to growing evidence that creating a child care system will make a huge difference in the lives of families across the country,” Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Who is the main sponsor of the proposal in the Senate, HuffPost said after seeing the report.

Big expense equals big impact

The new report’s findings are similar to those of another liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, produced in May using the same basic methodology.

You shouldn’t take either of these estimates as gospel, because predicting the effects of child care subsidies is far from an exact science. But the reports can at least give an impression of magnitude. And their conclusions intuitively make sense.

The Biden budget set aside $ 450 billion over 10 years for child care and preschool programs. There is no easy way to compare “apples to apples” to current government spending on early childhood programs. But very roughly, that equates to $ 45 billion a year, or roughly eight times the federal spending before the pandemic for these more limited child care subsidies.

The infusion of new money that Democrats have in mind is supposed to do more than reduce the effective price of child care. Another big goal is to improve its quality― in part, by increasing the salaries of caregivers, who now earn less than parking guards. The hope is that higher pay would make it easier to attract more talented and skilled workers to child care centers and then prevent them from leaving for better paying jobs.

The other big goal of the childcare proposal is to support the economy, in part by freeing up parents especially women who would otherwise have to cut their hours or stay out of the workforce altogether, even if they do. would prefer to work outside the home.

“What is not always measured or seen is the invisible work and burden demanded of so many women who have tried to hold on,” Tombs of Fatima Goss, president of the National Women’s Law Center, told HuffPost. “It’s a real cost, both short and long term, on their careers and financial security, for themselves and their families.

The objectives are clear, but the policy is complex

Whether the Democratic proposal, known as the Child Care for Working Families Act, could actually accomplish all of this is a separate question.

The political architecture would be complex, with the federal government offering money to states on condition that states meet affordability and quality standards. There is a lot of room to wonder how well these standards would work, and there is no guarantee that states will take the money.

Even in states that do, the complexity of establishing eligibility (aid would be cut entirely to 150% of the state’s median income) means the new program would not offer the simplicity of universal systems. appreciated by parents who work in countries like France and Sweden.

But the Democratic proposal could offer significant help to millions of families in a way its supporters hope it will help children as well as parents.

“Maybe you can find someone on the street who can take your kids at random, or you leave them in danger at home,” Murray said, speaking of the decisions some families end up making. “Quality is an important part of what we try to do because we believe it is critically important for our young children today to get the kind of child care they need to be successful. .

“My hope,” said Graves, “is that we are going to move from a place where it is assumed that there are insufficient child care services, insufficient facilities to meet the demands of families, and that families do not. cannot pay for child care or have to pay as much of their salary to get it.

The political challenge is also great

To do this, Democrats would have to send their proposal to Congress. And it seems unlikely he’ll get the support of Republicans, some of whom have attacked him for – as Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Wrote in National exam this week I’m trying to “channel your kids, from toddlers, into a government-run system.” Earlier this year, the senator Marsha blackburn (R-Tenn.) Said the proposal reminded him of Soviet-style central planning.

Not that Democrats were counting on GOP support. The plan has always been to include child custody in a larger bill that passes through Congress in the “budget reconciliation” process, in which a simple majority can pass a law without the threat of obstruction. in the Senate.

But even that will be difficult because Democrats have the weakest majorities in the House and literally no votes to spare in the Senate. The leaders discussed a $ 3.5 trillion package, which is obviously a lot of money, but still not enough to fully fund all the points on the Democratic agenda.

And that $ 3.5 trillion figure may have to drop if Democrats fail to agree on a package of tax increases and spending cuts to offset the new spending.

Advocates of a child custody law know this as well as anyone, which is why they are so eager to let people know what effect this law could have.

It would be expensive, yes. But that’s because they believe it can do a lot.

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