Murray, Colleagues, Advocates Rally and Make Clear: Child Care Has to Be on the Agenda This Congress

***WATCH: Murray rallies with colleagues, parents, providers, and advocates***

Photos of the event are available HERE

Leaders in Congress and child care champions highlight Democrats’ critical investments in saving child care sector from collapse, underscore need for more progress as child care crisis worsens

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a former preschool teacher herself, led a rally with colleagues in Congress, child care advocates and champions, and her SOTU guest, Angélica—a Washington state mom who’s struggled to find the affordable child care she needs—to underscore the need to make more progress on child care this Congress as new reports make clear the gravity of the crisis and the sweeping costs it’s imposing on our entire economy.

Last Congress, Democrats saved the child care sector from collapse as COVID disrupted everyone’s lives and pushed child care providers to the brink. Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration delivered the largest one-time federal investment in child care through the American Rescue Plan, which has now helped more than 200,000 child care providers keep their doors open and serve as many as 9.5 million kids nationwide. And at the end of last year, Democrats secured a 30% increase in federal child care funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which will help reach roughly 130,000 more kids across the country.

“We have a child care crisis in America. All across my state—and our country—parents like my guest to the State of the Union, Angélica, are stressed trying to figure out how on Earth they will find a child care opening and how they will afford it if they can ever get off a waitlist. And when they can’t find and afford child care—as is all too often the case—parents, and moms in particular, are being forced to leave their jobs, and stay out of the workforce,” said Senator Murray. “I won’t stop fighting for child care anytime soon. I’m going to work every avenue available—and work with every willing partner here in Congress—to address this crisis. I’m going to keep fighting for more resources to tackle this crisis and build on the progress we’ve made—because families are counting on bold change to fix this crisis.”

“When some families cannot access child care, we’re talking about having to leave a job, not being able to put food on the table—really serious consequences. So parents are seriously struggling, and I’ve experienced firsthand what not being able to find and afford child care has meant for my own family,” said Angélica. “Its been profoundly impactful on my life and my children’s lives—and my story is not unique by any means. I went and became a lawyer so that I could help people—and to provide for my own family—and I came to realize that this issue affects everyone. We have to address the crisis, and I’m so happy to join Senator Murray to keep fighting to do that.”

Senator Murray was joined by her SOTU guest, Angélica; Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee; House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA-05); Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), Ranking Member of House Appropriations Committee, and her SOTU guest, Allyx Schiavone, Executive Director of the Friends Center for Children; Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL-22), Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus; Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-CA-34), Chair of the Congressional Dads Caucus; Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) and her SOTU guest, Jaqueline Sanches, an early educator and mother of two; Representative Sara Jacobs (D-CA-51); Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09); Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18); Michelle Kang, CEO of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC); Mildred Waller, a family child care provider in Virginia; Matthew Melmed, Executive Director of Zero to Three; Julie Kashen, Senior Fellow and Director of Women’s Economic Justice at the Century Foundation; Sarah Rittling, Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund; and many more.

Members and advocates also wore “Crayons for Kids” crayons pinned to their outfits to call attention the child care crisis—and spark conversation about why child care has to continue to be a priority this Congress.

“I am so proud to stand alongside leaders who understand a simple truth: child care is infrastructure,” said Whip Clark. “Affordable, accessible child care is the key to an economy that works for working families. That’s why Democrats delivered a lifeline to our nation’s child care system through the American Rescue Plan. It’s why we doubled down on that commitment in this year’s federal budget. And it’s why we will continue fighting to put American families front and center in Washington.”

“Child care is critical infrastructure,” said Representative DeLauro. “When it is accessible and affordable, parents and children thrive. It is time we step up our investments to help parents return to work, improve the social and emotional learning of children, and help providers administer the highest level of care. I want to thank Allyx Schiavone of Friends Center for Children in New Haven for joining me, Senator Murray, and my colleagues in Congress to highlight the need for robust investments in child care.”

“Today, we came together to affirm that we value the lives of our educators just as much as their labor. Our educators matter, our babies matter, and our mamas matter—and they deserve policies that see them, center them, and support them,” said Representative Pressley. “I’m so honored to join my colleagues to call for strong, meaningful, and intersectional investments in our care economy, including affordable and accessible childcare, supporting the child care and early education workforce, paid family leave, and more. Policies like these will allow folks like Jaqueline Sanches—my State of the Union guest and an immigrant mother who has dedicated her life to caring for and educating our youngest children—to thrive.”

“As an Early Head Start teacher, I know that all young children deserve the education we provide,” said Jaqueline Sanches. “But even for me, it was hard to afford and access full time care for my kids. I am grateful for Congresswoman Pressley’s support of better pay for childcare and Head Start teachers, and more affordable care for parents, and I’m honored to share my story at the State of the Union.”

“The high cost of child care has held back working families for far too long, impacting everything from the gender wage gap to child health outcomes to equitable parenting,” said Representative Gomez. “45 percent of mothers with children five or younger who left the workforce during the pandemic cited child care as a major reason for their departure, compared to just 14 percent of fathers who said the same. It’s time for dads to step up and do their part, and as the founder and chair of the Congressional Dads Caucus, I’m fighting to make affordable, high-quality child care a reality for parents across the country.”

“We can all agree that access to affordable child care is critical to helping children develop and allowing parents to succeed in their career. Unfortunately, our continued disinvestment in the child care system has subjected providers and educators to unsustainably low wages and left parents with unaffordable costs and an inadequate supply of high-quality care,” said House Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03). “This child care crisis has strained family’s budgets and pushed far too many Americans out of the workforce. That is why House Democrats took considerable steps, through multiple COVID-19 relief packages, to correct the decades of disinvestment. Notably, the American Rescue Plan delivered $1 billion to Head Start and $39 billion in dedicated child care relief funding. However, if we want our infants and children to thrive; if we want well-trained educators; and if we want parents to participate in the economy, then we must continue to invest in the child care industry.”

“Our current child care system is unsustainable for our families, communities and economy,” said Michelle McCready, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Child Care Aware of America. “Thank you, Senator Murray, for once again bringing attention to the policies we all need to thrive. We urge Congress and the President to increase resources for child care to better support economic stability, address inequality and promote school readiness. Good child care policies are good for everyone. We cannot wait.”

“Child care and early learning is essential for the current and future success of our country. Federal relief funding has been a life-saver, but as that relief runs out, the stability those funds brought to programs will evaporate. Already, we are seeing staffing shortages caused by low compensation leading to supply shortages that negatively impact families’ ability to work, children’s access to safe and quality care, and educators’ health and well-being,” said Michelle Kang, CEO of NAEYC. “This isn’t a future problem. It’s a now problem. We look forward to supporting members of Congress as they work together towards a necessary, substantial, sustainable investment that builds an early childhood education system that works for all of our states, settings, and communities.”

“The State of our Union is strong, but it will be even stronger when Congress invests in the sustainable child care and early learning system that our country so desperately needs,” said Julie Kashen, Director of Women’s Economic Justice and a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation. “In tonight’s address, I want to hear about our progress as well as our unfinished business—an acknowledgment that care policy is industrial policy. It’s time that our leaders put families and children first. It’s time to build a care infrastructure that truly reflects the realities of living, working, and raising a family in 2023.”

“It is absolutely critical that babies and families have access to high quality child care. Babies and their families need it and as a nation, we have to make sure they have it,” said Matthew Melmed, Executive Director of Zero to Three.

“Addressing the child care realities facing working families and our economy continues to be as urgent as ever. I am glad to have joined lawmakers and partners today to press for the need to keep child care on the agenda and certainly in tonight’s State of the Union,” said Sarah Rittling, Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund. “The First Five Years Fund looks forward to working with the White House and a bipartisan Congress to get the job done.”

Senator Murray—a former preschool teacher herself—is leading the fight in Congress to build a child care system that works for working families. She has been creative—and persistent—in her fight to ensure working parents can find and afford child care. Last year, she secured a 30% increase in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the main source of federal child care support—a $1.8 billion increase in funding that will help serve approximately 130,000 more kids nationwide.

Senator Murray and her Democratic colleagues in Congress also worked with President Biden in 2021, after COVID forced the child care sector to the brink of collapse, to provide $39 billion in the American Rescue Plan for child care programs across the country to weather the crisis, keep their employees—the majority of whom are women and workers of color—on payroll, and continue serving families during a tough stretch. The funding—which represents the largest-ever one-time investment in child care in history—saved the child care sector from collapse during the pandemic—helping over 200,000 child care providers keep their doors open and serve as many as 9.5 million children nationwide. In Washington state, the funding has reached providers in 97% of counties, supporting 6,120 child care programs across the state that serve 169,000 kids.

Senator Murray continues to fight for the bold change families are counting on to solve the child care crisis. She has introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA) every Congress since 2017. In 2021, the legislation became the basis for President Biden’s child care plan and a top priority for the Biden administration.