May 1, 2023

Reed & Whitehouse Offer Plan to Help Working Families Afford Child Care

The Child Care for Working Families Act aims to benefit families, workers, & entire U.S. economy by making child care services more affordable & authorizing grants to make providers’ wages more livable

WASHINGTON, DC – It’s becoming harder to find and afford child care in Rhode Island and residents are paying higher and higher percentages of their paychecks for child care.

In an effort to help working families afford the rising cost of child care and strengthen America’s child care infrastructure and workforce, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are teaming up with Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to reintroduce the Child Care for Working Families Act.

This comprehensive legislation seeks to alleviate the high cost of child care for working families; provide families with more flexible options for high-quality, affordable child care; and boost wages for early childhood workers.  The bill would cap child care expenses at 7 percent of working families’ incomes. It would authorize federal grants for child care providers to boost wages, and increase access to pre-k education while supporting full-day Head Start programs.

“Tackling the child care crisis isn’t just what families are counting on us to do—it’s a top economic imperative. I constantly hear from families making impossible tradeoffs to pay for child care, from parents—and too often, moms—forced to quit their jobs because they can’t find openings near them, and from child care workers struggling to just make ends meet,” said Senator Murray. “We’ve got to tackle this crisis head-on—and that’s exactly what the Child Care for Working Families Act will do. Our bill will transform child care in America—ensuring families in every part of our country can find and afford the child care they need to go to work and child care workers are paid the higher wages they deserve. Families are counting on us to deliver on child care, and this is absolutely critical for our future and our economy—let’s pass the Child Care for Working Families Act.”

“Working parents need access to high-quality, affordable child care that meets their needs.  For many parents, child care is their single biggest household expense, and this bill would help reduce their out of pocket costs.  Making child care more accessible and affordable is critical to families, communities, businesses, and our shared economic future.  We know that early childhood is a critical time for brain development, and these early childhood programs build a strong foundation to help children excel in the classroom and beyond,” said Senator Reed.  “Our goal is nothing less than affordable and high-quality child care coverage for all.”

“When we invest in affordable, high-quality child care, we are investing in the strength of our economy,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “Our legislation will ensure that more families in Rhode Island have access to child care while making sure early childhood educators are compensated fairly for their hard work.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s National Database of Childcare Prices, which provides child care prices in 2,360 U.S. counties, shows that child care expenses are untenable for families throughout the country and hinders workforce participation.

Today, Rhode Island families are spending up to 27 percent of their income on child care, as average child care costs can cost over $10,000 per year per child under four years old.  Care for infants is even more expensive, and long waiting lists for child care centers are common across the state.

Over the last three decades, the cost of child care has increased by 220 percent, forcing families—and mothers, in particular—to make impossible choices, and more than half of all families live in child care deserts.  Meanwhile, child care workers are struggling to make ends meet on the poverty-level wages they are paid and child care providers are struggling to simply stay afloat.  The crisis—which was exacerbated by the pandemic—is costing our economy dearly, to the tune of $122 billion in economic losses each year.

The Child Care for Working Families Act would tackle the child care crisis head-on: ensuring families can afford the child care they need, expanding access to more high-quality options, stabilizing the child care sector, and helping ensure child care workers taking care of our nation’s kids are paid livable wages.

The legislation would also dramatically expand access to pre-K, and support full-day, full-year Head Start programs and increased wages for Head Start workers.  Under the legislation, which Murray, Reed and Whitehouse have been pushing since 2017, the typical family in America will pay no more than $10 a day for child care—with many families paying nothing at all—and no eligible family would pay more than 7 percent of their income on child care.

The Child Care for Working Families Act will:

  • Make child care affordable for working families.
    • The typical family earning the state median income will pay about $10 a day for child care.
    • No working family will pay more than seven percent of their income on child care.
    • Families earning below 85% of state median income will pay nothing at all for child care.
    • If a state does not choose to receive funding under this program, the Secretary can provide funds to localities, such as cities, counties, local governments, districts, or Head Start agencies.
  • Improve the quality and supply of child care for all children and expand families’ child care options by:
    • Addressing child care deserts – places where high-quality, affordable child care is not readily accessible — by providing grants to help open new child care providers in underserved communities.
    • Providing grants to cover start-up and licensing costs to help establish new providers.
    • Increasing child care options for children who receive care during non-traditional hours.
    • Supporting child care for children who are dual-language learners, children who are experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
  • Support higher wages for child care workers.
    • Child care workers would be paid a living wage and achieve parity with elementary school teachers who have similar credentials and experience.
    • Child care subsidies would cover the cost of providing high-quality care.
  • Dramatically expand access to high-quality pre-K.
    • States would receive funding to establish and expand a mixed-delivery system of high-quality preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds.
    • States must prioritize establishing and expanding universal local preschool programs within and across high-need communities.
    • If a state does not choose to receive funding under this program, the Secretary can provide funds to localities, such as cities, counties, local governments, districts, or Head Start agencies.
  • Better support Head Start programs by providing the funding necessary to offer full-day, full-year programming and increasing wages for Head Start workers.

In the FY 2023 appropriations law that was passed into law late last year, Reed and Whitehouse helped include over $8 billion to support child care nationwide through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (a 31 percent boost over FY22), and nearly $12 billion for Head Start, a program that promotes school readiness for children from low-income families (a 9 percent year-over-year increase).

The Child Care for Working Families Act is endorsed by: AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, All Our Kin, The Center for American Progress, The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Child Care Aware of America, Community Change Action, Council for Professional Recognition, Family Value @ Work, MomsRising, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC), National Education Association (NEA), National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Oxfam, Save the Children, Save the Children Action Network, SEIU, YWCA, Zero to Three.

In addition to Murray, Reed, and Whitehouse, the Senate bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chuck Schumer, (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ),Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

In the House, the bill is being introduced by U.S. Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-03), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and cosponsored by U.S. Representatives: Suzanne Bonamici, Kevin Mullin, John P. Sarbanes, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Chellie Pingree, Joaquin Castro, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Sean Casten, Julia Brownley, Hank Johnson, Eric Swalwell, Troy Carter, Jan Schakowsky, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Greg Landsman, Nikema Williams, Haley Stevens, Steve Cohen, Marcy Kaptur, Sylvia Garcia, William R. Keating, Dina Titus, Lauren Underwood, Daniel S. Goldman, Earl Blumenauer, Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, Rosa L. DeLauro, Ruben Gallego, Donald Norcross, Andrea Salinas, Nydia M. Velazquez, Nanette Diaz Barragan, Sara Jacobs, Gwen Moore, Suzan Delbene, Kathy Castor, Seth Moulton, Teresa Leger Fernandez, Derek Kilmer, Terri A. Sewell, Josh Gottheimer, Colin Z. Allred, and Katherine Clark.

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921