Presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced the third plank of his four-part economic platform, a broad measure that would significantly reduce the cost of childcare for working families, offer universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, and expand access to quality caregiving for both the very young and old, as well as those with disabilities.
“This is the most detailed childcare plan we’ve seen from a presidential nominee, which is an historic moment for childcare,” says Katie Hamm, vice president of early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress. “Millions of families would finally have access to quality, affordable childcare and preschool if this passes.”
While his competitors released sweeping universal childcare proposals during the Democratic primary—notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders—this is the first time a general election candidate has released a comprehensive plan “that addresses quality, affordability, supply and workforce issues, including wages,” Hamm says.
In a statement, the Biden campaign tied the proposal to the former vice president’s past as a single dad. “Joe Biden has taken care of aging parents, and he’s been a single parent. Biden knows how hard it is to raise a family and to care for a sick family member. And, he knows how hard it is for millions of Americans who are just trying to make ends meet,” it begins.
In a conference call with reporters Monday night, The New York Times reports, campaign advisors also billed the measure as necessary to help the US recover from its current economic crisis and to compete globally with other developed countries that offer working parent-friendly programs such as paid family leave and subsidized childcare.
Generally, Republicans in Washington, DC, have favored tax credits as a way to whittle down the cost of childcare for families. President Donald Trump has proposed an above-the-line tax deduction for childcare expenses, paired with a boost in the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families who don’t have a tax obligation. Critics worry it would still leave many low-income and middle-class families paying a big chunk of their income for childcare.
The “first step” of Biden’s plan calls for providing states, tribal, and local governments with the fiscal relief they need to keep childcare services afloat—funds that are increasingly crucial as a recent report by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) estimates that 40 percent of childcare providers will permanently shutter without a bailout.
Next are “substantial investments in the infrastructure of care in our country,” a 10-year $775 billion proposal that would be paid for by rolling back tax breaks for real estate investors with incomes over $400,000, and taking steps to increase tax compliance for high-income earners, according to the campaign.
Some of the ways the plan stands to benefit working parents include:
Providing all 3- and 4-year-olds access to free, high-quality pre-kindergarten by partnering with states to provide a mixed delivery system that includes public school systems, childcare centers and family childcare providers, and Head Start.
Offering low-income and middle-class families a tax credit to help pay for childcare. Families making up to $125,000 a year will receive a 50% reimbursement on childcare costs for children under age 13, up to a total of $8,000 for one child or $16,000 for two or more children. The tax credit will be refundable, so families who don’t owe a lot in taxes will still receive it, and families who make up to $400,000 will receive a partial credit. (The current Child and Dependent Care Credit amounts to much less for most families.)
Providing access to affordable, high-quality childcare on a sliding scale for low-income and middle-class families, by passing Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Bobby Scott’s Child Care for Working Families Act. For children under the age of 5, no family earning below 1.5 times the median income in their state will have to pay more than 7 percent of their income for quality care.
Expanding Child Care Development Block Grant subsidies so low-income families with school-age children have expanded access to after-school, weekend and summer care.
Investing in childcare and other wraparound services at community colleges, where one in four community college students is a parent—and these parents are disproportionately students of color.
Creating a new childcare construction tax credit to encourage businesses to build childcare facilities at places of work.
Investing in quality childcare standards, including a well-trained and well-compensated childcare workforce, by working in partnership with states to ensure providers meet rigorous quality standards.
Requiring increased pay, better benefits and legal protections for childcare workers as a standard for funding, including the choice to join a union and collectively bargain.
In addition, the plan provides expanded access to care for older Americans and those with disabilities, to help ease the financial burden on families caring for loved ones.
“It addresses the desperately needed funding and reform for childcare to make it affordable and accessible for families. It also seeks to improve supply so families don’t find themselves on a waiting list and improves wages and quality options for parents,” Hamm says of the proposal. “The fact that Vice President Biden has embraced a bill that already has support in Congress signals that he is serious about moving this forward and has a pragmatic approach.”