New Report from Wyden, Colleagues: Universal Child Care Is Essential to the Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery

Washington, DC – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) as well as U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.),  Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) today 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. 

“Our report echoes what I hear every day from working families throughout Oregon: it’s a daily challenge to afford escalating child care costs and go to work so they can make rent, buy groceries, pay for medical bills and other key essentials,” said Wyden, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “Universal quality, affordable child care is infrastructure. And key to recovering from the economic fallout of this public health crisis is to invest $700 billion in children and their families working so hard to care for them.”

The need for affordable and reliable child care is particularly significant as the nation and its 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. 

Key findings in the report include: 

·       Working parents – especially women – are not returning to work because of lack of affordable and reliable child care: national survey found that nearly 20 percent of working parents left the workforce or reduced their hours solely due to a lack of child care, and 26 percent of women who became unemployed during the pandemic attributed this to a lack of child care.

·       Families – especially women – have suffered significant economic fallout from the pandemic: By the start of 2021, an estimated ten million mothers with school-age children were out of the workforce – a net loss of 1.4 million compared to 2020. Women of color have been among the hardest-hit. The problems faced by women who have been forced out of the workforce will slow economic recovery and “reduces not only their earnings today but also their potential earnings tomorrow and into the future.”

·       A $700 billion investment in expanding and improving child care can create good jobs for women, especially women of color. Women make up 95% of the child care workforce; 20% of child care workers are Latina, and 19% are Black women. Investing in child care and ensuring that child care workers are adequately supported and paid for their work will create millions of new, good jobs.

·       Child care must be structured to accommodate the reality of families’ post-pandemic lives: Even before the pandemic, our child care subsidy system was not set up to reflect families’ day-to-day reality. The limited child care subsidies available impose rigid and outdated requirements on families, including work requirements, and are persistently under-funded. Out of the 13.5 million children eligible for federal child care subsidies, an estimated 1.9 million, or approximately 14 percent, received child care subsidies in 2017.

·       Investments in child care supply are needed to ensure families have the options they need: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for American Progress found that approximately half of families were living in “child care deserts.” Many programs have closed or reduced their capacity during the pandemic, making it even more challenging to find available, high-quality care.

Last month, Wyden, Warren 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. 

Wyden, Warren and Smith will also be introducing legislation, the Building Child Care for a Better Future Act, that would provide permanent federal investment in child care supply across the nation. The legislation would provide the resources necessary to build a more robust child care infrastructure to help ensure families can access affordable, quality child care no matter where they live. 

A web version of this release is here.