Biden hits the road to pitch transformation of US child care

AFP , Saturday 16 Oct 2021

President Joe Biden travels to Connecticut on Friday to promote his plan to transform an American child care program that lags behind most of the developed world as part of his multi-trillion dollar legislative agenda.

US Vice President
US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with children as she visits the Ben Samuels Children s Center at Montclair State University, in Little Falls, New Jersey, on October 8, 2021. AFP

Part of a national tour to drum up support for his proposals, Biden's second presidential visit to the Constitution State comes during a crucial phase for his historic but controversial spending plans, which face opposition from his own side as well as from Republicans.

The White House said the president would stop first at a child care center in Hartford, to "highlight the importance of investing in child care to keep costs down for working families."

Child care is being held up as critical to the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic -- but the adminstration argues that the United States invests far less in children than comparable economies.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says the nation invests less in early childhood education and care relative to the size of the economy than all but two of the world's 37 leading developed countries.

Meanwhile the cost of child care for the average family in Connecticut is $16,000, according to Hartford's Democratic mayor Luke Bronin.

"What that means is that members of the family can't work because they've got to be home taking care of that child," he told the local Fox affiliate.

"So for a lot of families, having access to affordable child care would be a game changer."

Parents' difficulties in hanging on to jobs also contributes to a wide gender gap in workforce participation between mothers, who still take on the greater burden of care, and fathers.

Strong middle class

Biden is proposing to bridge the gap with federal subsidies for low and middle-income Americans that would cap families' child care expenses at seven percent of their income.

He wants to offer large subsidies to child care centers, raise wages for those who work in the industry and increase child credit from $2,000 to $3,000 a year for children aged over six.

Republicans vehemently oppose White House proposals for a multi-trillion-dollar social spending package that calls for Biden's child care provisions.

The Democrats in Congress have enough lawmakers without Republican help to pass the historic blueprint -- which includes improved benefits for college students and seniors, cash for health care coverage and provisions to help rescue a warming planet.

House liberals balk at cutting the $3.5 trillion top line to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, which a small group of moderates favor.

Biden has told progressives that the end goal should be around $2 trillion as he tries to wrangle sufficient Democratic votes.

This means confronting grueling choices between funding fewer programs for longer periods of time or more programs for shorter stints, in hopes they will be renewed by future Congresses.

Polling shows that as little as one in 10 Americans known specifics about the contents of the plan but Bronin said broad improvements in child care were overwhelmingly popular among Americans.

"It would lift up families across this country, open up pathways to opportunity, make sure that we keep our middle class strong," he told the local Fox affiliate.

"So I hope that everybody in Washington, whatever party they're a part of, remembers at the end of the day this is something that would make a huge difference to the American people and and gets it done.

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