Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today with colleagues sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging them to include at least $700 billion over 10 years in direct spending on child care in the upcoming infrastructure package.
“As the pandemic has made clear, child care is essential infrastructure that makes all other work in our country possible. High-quality child care also has long-lasting benefits for young children’s development. The next funding package should include at least $700 billion over 10 years in direct spending for long-term, structural investments in child care. We believe that this is a generational opportunity to invest in affordable, quality care for all children who need it, and we urge you not to let it go to waste,” the lawmakers wrote.
Even before COVID-19, many families were struggling to find affordable, quality child care. A national analysis found that half of all families live in neighborhoods classified as child care deserts, where there is an insufficient supply of quality child care. On average, child care deserts have maternal labor force participation rates that are three percentage points lower than in areas with a sufficient supply of child care providers. Despite child care workers being crucial to our economy, they rank among the bottom two percent of positions by salary. In 2020, the average pay for a child care worker was $12.24 an hour.
“The upcoming infrastructure package presents a historic opportunity to not only recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, but also to build a stronger caregiving economy for women and families across the country. Providing affordable, quality care for every child and family who needs it would create jobs, increase productivity, and have lifelong benefits for children’s development and growth. We urge you to prioritize investments in a stronger child care system in the next funding package to ensure that women and families are not left behind in our recovery,” the lawmakers continued.
The letter was led by Wyden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y. Along with Merkley, it was also signed by Senators Tina Smith, D-Minn., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and 118 members of the House.
Wyden and Merkley have consistently called for immediate support for the child care industry:
- In March, Wyden and Merkley helped pass the American Rescue Plan, coronavirus relief legislation that includes multiple funding streams to support child care, such as $15 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and $24 billion for a COVID-19 child care relief and stabilization fund, which provides states with resources to offer immediate grants to child care providers struggling to stay open.
- In May 2021, Wyden along with Senate colleagues have introduced the Building Child Care for a Better Future Act, which would allocate mandatory funding to build child care availability over the long term.
- That same month, Wyden, along with colleagues in the both the House and Senate 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.
- Also in May, Wyden and Merkley cosponsored the Child Care for Working Families Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would make child care affordable for working families, expand pre-school access for 3- and 4-year olds, and increase compensation and provide training for child care workers.