- President Biden’s American Families Plan includes major investments in childcare.
- Parents would see more affordable childcare, and childcare workers would get a wage boost.
- The plan represents a ‘historic investment’ in childcare and parents, according to one expert.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Under President Joe Biden’s latest infrastructure proposal, American parents and workers could see more free and affordable childcare – and childcare workers would get a wage boost.
The American Families Plan would make a multibillion-dollar investment in childcare and universal pre-K, signaling a paradigm shift in federal policy for workers and parents. The package would make childcare more affordable (and lucrative, for its staffers), a move that comes after women have born the brunt of care and unemployment throughout the pandemic.
Melissa Boteach, the vice president for income security and child care/early learning at the National Women’s Law Center, told Insider that the plan would have a “transformative effect” on both children’s access to high-quality early learning, and mothers’ ability to enter, advance, or remain in the workforce.
“It really begins to recognize and value caregiving as a core part of our economy,” Boteach said. Here’s what that means for parents and childcare workers.
Free pre-K and affordable childcare – and increased benefits for childcare workers
The American Families Plan directs $200 billion to create free, universal pre-K, which the White House estimates could benefit 5 million children.
Beyond the pre-K program, the plan also also invests $225 billion in childcare funding. That will go toward making childcare more affordable and higher-quality – and free for some.
With that funding, America’s lowest-earning families wouldn’t pay anything for childcare. Costs would increase on a sliding scale; families who make 150% of their state’s median income would only pay up to 7% of that income on childcare. It’s language that’s very similar to the recently introduced Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA).
“It’s finally recognizing that childcare is a public good, one which – whether or not you have children who require childcare – it benefits all of us the same way that roads and bridges, and K-12 public education benefit all of us,” Boteach said. “And that’s a really important shift in mindset, because for a long time we’ve seen childcare as a personal responsibility for every family to navigate on their own.”
The minimum wage for the workers staffing those pre-K and childcare programs would increase to at least $15 an hour. Research from the NWLC finds that 95% of the childcare workforce is female; 20% of childcare workers are Latina, and 19% are Black. The childcare workforce also has a higher share of women with disabilities and women born outside of the country than the average workforce.
Childcare workers were also more likely to live in poverty than the broader workforce, and had difficulty affording their own childcare.
Boteach noted that there are proposals in Congress that would go further and spend more, such as the CCWFA. She said her organization is celebrating this $425 billion investment in the American Families Plan, and looking forward to working with Congress to secure more.
“This is a historic investment that is going to make childcare more affordable for families,” Boteach said. “It’s going to fairly compensate the early educators who do this critical work, and it’s going to increase the availability of childcare.”