Childcare and Paid Family Leave
The childcare system in this country and our accommodations for paid family leave have never caught up with the civil rights movement or women entering the workplace, let alone the realities of many single-parent and other households. As a mom of a 5-year-old and a 2-year old, I get it. My wife and I put off having our second child and are still putting off having a third child because of the ridiculous cost of child care. Massachusetts has the second highest child care costs in the country, and Congress can do something about it.
As with so many of our problems, these problems are rooted in representation and money in politics. Working and middle class parents that actually live the challenges of struggling to pay for childcare and taking time off from work when juggling childcare costs and student loan debt are not represented as Members of Congress. And we don’t have ultra wealthy donors, PACs, or Super PACs with our needs on the agenda. We don’t have a seat at the table. I’m ready to elbow my way up to the table for your family and mine.
My initial proposals:
Universal pre-kindergarten for four year olds in Massachusetts and America: I support a partnership between federal and state governments to make at least one year of high quality pre-K accessible to all working and middle class families. This is a critical investment in our next generation and our economy, which easily pays for itself in the long term with better student outcomes as well as immediate benefits to working and middle class incomes and quality of life.
Ensure no working or middle class family pays more than 10% of their income for childcare costs: I support block grants to Massachusetts and other states to achieve this, in combination with an increase in child tax credits and the deduction for dependent care, which would then be indexed to inflation. These benefits have long lagged the continually increasing cost of childcare, it is time to address this with a permanent fix.
Improve the quality and supply of childcare by raising wages for childcare workers through federal support: Child care is among one of the most important tasks in our society, yet child care workers often work at minimum wage with minimal benefits and are unable to support their own families.
Increase the availability of childcare to meet the scheduling realities of many families: Between people who are working multiple jobs, those on overnight shifts, and so many jobs in the "always-on" economy, more and more families in our district need occasional or regular childcare after-hours and even overnight care: particularly for working-class families and in communities in color, and/or families with only one parent or guardian. I propose the use of federal grant funds and potentially tax credits to incentivize and support private and non-profit child care providers to offer these services.
Paid family leave for all: I support legislation to provide a maximum of 12 weeks of paid family leave for use with childcare, care for sick family members, and eldercare, to be funded by Federal payroll contributions of not more than 1% split between employer and employee. This benefit will cover all workers but be targeted to working and middle class families, with a maximum benefit cap of $1,000 a week. This will enhance productivity, improve public health and level the playing field for small businesses, who cannot afford to compete with many existing corporate paid family leave programs.