Obama launches $80B child care push

President Obama on Thursday detailed a new $80 billion proposal intended to help more families afford child care as part of a post-State of the Union policy push the White House hopes can win over Republicans and independents.

The president called for the federal government to dramatically expand the Child Care and Development Fund, a federal program that provides states grants for childcare assistance programs to help low- and middle-income families.

“In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education — these aren’t just nice to have, this is a must-have,” Obama said in remarks at the University of Kansas.

The White House says more money is necessary because budgetary restraints mean only a fraction of children who qualify for assistance receive it. Subsidies provided to those who qualify often don’t do enough to cover child care costs.

The proposal to expand the development fund comes on top of the president’s proposal to triple the maximum child care tax credit available to middle-class families. Under Obama’s plan, parents could receive up to a $3,000 credit.

And the White House wants to create a new program to help young families who have trouble finding suitable child care programs because they work uncommon hours or live in rural areas.

“Expanding access in the early childhood space is tremendously important,” domestic policy adviser Cecelia Muñoz said Thursday.

In his speech in Kansas, Obama pitched the proposal as something that could cut across partisan lines. The White House has said Obama’s post-State of the Union swing through two red states — Idaho and Kansas — was a deliberate attempt to reach voters across the aisle.

“Republican families feel it just as much as Democratic families,” Obama said. “There’s no distinction. I don’t want any family to face the choice between not working or leaving their children in unsafe or poor-quality child care.”

An aide to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed Obama’s proposal and noted the president also wanted to reduce tax breaks on savings plans that allow parents to invest money set aside for their children’s college educations.

“Republicans are all for increasing access to quality, affordable education, but we don’t need more top-down policies from Washington or new tax hikes on middle-income families saving for their children’s college education,” Boehner aide Cory Fritz said in a statement.

Obama said the child care issue was personal for him, and that he and the first lady struggled to figure out how to pay both child care costs and student loans.

“I don’t want anybody being day care poor,” he said.

Before speaking at the school, Obama visited a community center where preschool was funded through the federal Head Start program.

“The light in all of these children’s eyes, you know, that the sense of possibility and potential for these kids made me just that much more determined to keep strengthening and keep promoting and expanding early childhood education, to give all of our children a strong start,” Obama said.

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