Last weekend, on Sunday, May 9th, 2022, Politico reported that Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) is in the process of pitching a new child care proposal to the rest of the Democratic party, taking a bold step to keep child care in the conversation about a potential reconciliation package later this year.
“The child care sector is on the brink of collapse and we have to act now to save it,” Murray said in a statement. “I’m fighting to get this done, because the painful reality is that this crisis will only get worse unless we deliver strong, sustained child care funding through reconciliation.” Senate HELP held a hearing on the child care crisis earlier this spring, hearing testimony from experts in the field about the challenges facing families, providers, and the child care workforce.
While the new bill language has not been made public yet, what we know about the rewritten package reflects that Senator Murray has listened to the concerns of Senator Manchin (D-WV) and others, responding to the criticisms they have raised. The new proposal is smaller than the original, and would have additional funding go through existing channels, mostly the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which is up for reauthorization.
The new proposal triples the existing CCDBG to increase funds to all states, addressing the concern that some states would have opted out of the Build Back Better child care proposal. This large increase in funding for the existing system enables states to efficiently provide child care subsidies to more low-income working families and raise child care subsidy payment rates, which would support provider stability and provide higher wages for staff. This would provide $72 billion in new funding over 6 years.
The new child care plan would spend between $150 billion and $200 billion over six years to bolster the industry. Of that, $72 billion would go toward child care subsidies, $18 billion to a new grant program that would help states expand access to pre-K and $12 billion to raise teacher wages for the Head Start program.
The new proposal also does not give up on transforming the child care system. It creates a pilot program within CCDBG that would cap child care expenses for families making up to 250 percent of their state’s median income, ensuring that they would spend no more than 7 percent of their income on care for children up to the age of five. The federal government would cover 90 percent of eligible families’ child care costs. These initiatives were originally part of the Build Back Better child care proposal, progress on which ground to a halt last December when Senator Manchin announced his opposition to several key provisions of the package, including the CTC and paid leave.
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been recruited to the cause and is championing this proposal alongside Senator Murray, providing much-needed support from the more moderate sector of the Democratic Party.