Support the budget resolution to ensure a critical investment in child care
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People in our communities are doing all they can to stay afloat and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBuilding strong public health capacity across the US Texas abortion law creates 2022 headache for GOP Top Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill MORE (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, knows it.

Take a look at Teresa from Washington state. She is a mom and a child care provider who during the pandemic, stepped up to care for children of essential workers. Grocery workers, health care workers, bus drivers, you name it — Teresa was there for their children so these families could keep the economy moving. Although Teresa’s services have been key to get parents to work while she cares for their children, the existing low wages of providers mean that she struggles to make ends meet at home. That is absolutely wrong.

Sen. Murray has been calling attention to the country’s child care crisis during her nearly 30 years in the Senate. Joining a national grassroots movement of parents and providers, she has actively amplified calls for solutions as the pandemic has wreaked havoc on child care programs and families alike, highlighting what has long been true: That families, and our economy, simply cannot work without child care. Now we have the chance to get a historic win for families with the Senate’s passage of a budget resolution that includes a critical investment in child care. We urge the House to support it as a step toward addressing the crisis children, their families, and caregivers face.

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In fact, child care is important for both a thriving economy and families’ economic security.

Only one in six families who are eligible for the limited number of government subsidies available now actually get assistance, in large part because of chronic disinvestment. Without financial support, parents have to choose between work and caring for their children, or rely on unstable or unsafe care arrangements. As part of a healthy economy, our nation must guarantee child care for every family who needs it. 

We also need to pay early care and education workers a base living wage and get to parity in compensation with K-12 teachers with similar education and experience. These workers are currently paid only $10 an hour on average for the essential work they provide, barely enough to cover the needs of their own families while they care for others. 

This past year, states such as Washington were able to direct American Rescue Plan funding to key programs to improve the child care system. Thanks to the organizing work of OneAmerica, the state is using these funds towards stabilization grants for small child care business owners, language access for multilingual child care workers, and subsidies to make the cost of child care both more affordable for families and increase the wages for workers. 
Although an important first step, deeper public investment is needed to meet the increasing demand in the supply of care in communities across states. In order for parents to go out and do what we do everyday knowing that some of the most precious people in our lives are in good hands, care work can no longer be invisible and undervalued. To have a world-class workforce that can compete in a 24/7 global economy, we must give our early care workers a chance to succeed. Teresa  — and other caregivers like her  — need a chance to succeed. 

Our movement is calling for a long-term sustainable investment from Congress toward a child care system that provides subsidies based on the true cost of care and good wages and benefits for providers. We must create a high-quality, affordable and equitable child care system that guarantees economic security for all families, especially among communities of color. This is key. With more funding, we can guarantee a living wage for providers and can cap co-payments and fees so that families pay no more than 7 percent of their income for child care with lower income families paying even less. This is especially important for infant and toddler care, which is more expensive than a year of in-state college tuition in 29 states and the District of Columbia

It is time to invest in human infrastructure, like expanding affordable, quality child care and early childhood education, which makes our lives and economy work. The time is now for Congress to join Sen. Murray and invest in child care using the special budget resolution.

Wendoly Marte is director of Economic Justice for the national organization Community Change Action and Roxana Norouzi is executive director for the Washington state organizaton OneAmerica