President-elect Joe Biden has a plan to help fix what he calls the immediate and acute child-care crisis in America.
He unveiled his proposal on Thursday, as part of his sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package.
"If left unaddressed, many child care providers will close — some permanently — and millions of children could go without necessary care, and millions of parents could be left to make devastating choices this winter between caring for their children and working to put food on the table," Biden's plan stated.
Many, but not all, child-care providers have reopened, after shutting down early in the pandemic. Yet even those that are back in operation are facing financial challenges. A November report from the National Association for the Education of Young Children found that 56% of child-care centers said they were losing money every day they remain open.
The end result could mean child-care workers out of jobs and parents struggling with children at home, school and work.
"The juggle is just about impossible for people, even in the best of circumstances," said Joanne Lipman, author of "That's What She Said" and a CNBC contributor.
Women are being particularly hard hit, either missing out on promotions, having to leave the workforce, or losing their jobs. One in 4 are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether, according to a September report by Lean In and McKinsey & Co.
"If we are going to right this ship and get women back to work, we have to focus on child care," Lipman said.
Biden's plan would:
Create a $25 billion emergency stabilization fund. It will provide support to those providers in danger of closing, as well as assist those who had to shut down to meet financial obligations so that they can reopen. The fund will help pay for rent, utilities and payroll, and pandemic-associated costs such as personal protective equipment, ventilation supplies, modifications to the physical environment and smaller class sizes.
Expand child-care assistance. Biden is calling for an additional $15 billion in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which goes to states for child-care subsidies for low-income families with children under 13 years-old. This is on top of the $10 billion in funding in December and is aimed at helping women reenter the workforce and helping rebuild the supply of child-care workers.
Increase tax credits to cover child-care costs. Biden wants Congress to expand child-care tax credits for one year, on an emergency basis. Families will get a tax credit for a total of up to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children. Families making between $125,000 and $400,000 will receive a partial credit. It will also be refundable, so that low-income families who don't owe a lot in taxes will still benefit.
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Child-care advocates applauded the proposal.
"Child-care workers are too often taken for granted by large-scale policies like this, and it's a hopeful sign to see their needs put forward in a real, concrete way," said National Women's Law Center spokesperson Gillian Branstetter.
"We're hopeful the Biden-Harris team recognizes this for the down payment it is and are ready to continue expanding access to high-quality, affordable child care through the pandemic and long after it's over.
Yet while the plan will make a big difference for many families, there are still unresolved issues for parents, said certified financial planner Stacy Francis, president and CEO of Francis Financial, a New York-based wealth management practice dedicated to services for women.
"You still have a lot of families that are struggling ... that are trying to scramble to try to figure out how to get care for a child who is in school doing remote learning," she said.
"How do you bridge that gap? Because you can't leave a school-aged 7 year old at home and be able to go to work."
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