On Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022 the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing entitled ‘Child Care and Preschool: Cutting Costs for Working Families.’ The hearing centered around how to provide affordable childcare to families. Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Democrats advocated for the proposal included in President Biden’s Build Back Better package, which would expand the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) for states to expand their child care industries while providing subsidies to families to make child care more affordable. Ranking Member Burr (R-NC) and Republicans argued that this proposal would destroy child care, and instead pushed for a narrower approach that would simply reauthorize the CCDBG.
Rhian Evans Allvin from NAEYC noted the current block grant, while foundational, only aids low-income families, and only reaches 1 in 9 kids who are eligible. The proposal under BBB would expand eligibility to middle-class families and would provide positive economic outcomes by increasing parental workforce participation. An analysis by The Century Foundation found that enacting the proposal would create $48 million in economic output from increased parental employment, $60 billion in gains for both businesses and state tax revenue from decreased child care-related work disruptions, and $30 billion from the expansion of the child care industry and related jobs. Murray noted that the proposal would significantly decrease costs for families right away, claiming that 2/3 of working families would not pay more than 7% of their income on childcare in the first year of enactment, and this would increase to 7 in 10 working families in subsequent years. Maria-Isabel Ballivan, Executive Director of the ACCA Child Development Center, tearfully recounted stories of families that could not afford to keep their children in daycare; “we must ensure all children in America have the opportunity to be loved, to be protected, to be safe,” she noted, “and that all parents have the opportunity to provide for their children.”
Senator Burr argued that this proposal would have hidden costs, citing a CBO scoring report which found the proposal would increase the deficit and estimated 30% of states would opt out of the proposal, excluding children in those states from receiving aid.
All parties at the hearing agreed that investments in childcare would have to increase significantly to address the market failures within childcare and rising inflation levels. All four witnesses called for historic investments in child care, including Republican witness Ellen Reynolds from the Georgia Child Care Association, who called for a $400 billion investment in child care through the reconciliation process.