5 questions about Trump’s child care plan

5 questions about Trump’s child care plan
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When Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE released his plan to make child care more affordable for working families last week, critics were quick to accuse the business mogul of catering to wealthy families.

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But the Trump campaign says “people are choosing to be political rather than professional” and the proposal “has something for everyone.” 

Love it or hate it, the plan, which includes six weeks of paid leave, has left some lingering questions about who would be covered and where the funding would come from. 

Here are five of the biggest questions swirling around the proposal. 

1) Who would really benefit?   

Because the plan, crafted by Trump's daughter Ivanka, allows working parents to deduct the cost of daycare for up to four children from their income taxes, critics claim it would help wealthy families more than those with lower incomes.

In an interview with The Hill, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign said that’s always the problem with anything related to taxation.

“You have a graduated rate system, so those who earn more get more from deductions,” the spokesperson said, adding that individuals earning over $250,000 or couples earning $500,000 and filing jointly would not be eligible for the tax break. The campaign said this feature ensures that the program benefits the middle class the most.

Elaine Maag, senior research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, noted that lower-income people often do not owe federal income taxes, so there’s no tax bill to deduct child care expenses from. 

“It doesn’t help you at all,” she said. 

It’s a big chunk of change families could be missing out on, considering the average cost of childcare in 28 states and the District of Columbia is higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public university. 

But Trump says he has a solution. Under his plan, low-income families, which a campaign spokesperson defined as someone earning up to $15 per hour or a couple earning up to $61,000 per year, would receive a rebate for half of the payroll taxes paid by the worker.  This would come in the form of an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, and could be as much as $1,200 per child.

That money could be put in the Dependent Care Savings Account created by Trump's plan, which promises to match half of the first $1,000 saved for childcare, tutoring or elder care. That would be an additional $500 in benefit for each child covered by an account.  

Finally, the Trump plan provides incentives to employers to provide on-site childcare

2) Are same-sex couples covered?

The answer: Maybe. This part of Trump’s plan is a little unclear. 

The fact sheet put out by his campaign says “the benefits would be available in the same way that the IRS currently recognizes same-sex couples: if the marriage is recognized under state law, then it is recognized under federal law.” 

Because the Supreme Court ruled over a year ago that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, says same-sex couples should be covered.

“Same-sex couples who marry are as married as any other couples and should be treated equally under the law,” he said. “And parents should have the support and protections to care for their children, whether the parents are male or female.” 

Trump’s campaign couldn’t definitively say one way or another.

“All we’re saying is that the IRS has rules that basically let you know how a same-sex couple should file their tax return and we’re going to follow those rules,” the spokesperson said. “IRS knows the rules in the 50 states and we're going to piggy back off that.” 

As for paid leave, the six weeks offered is only available to new mothers, so it appears gay men would not be eligible to receive the benefit. 

3) Does the plan encourage women to be stay-at-home moms? 

Some think so. Under Trump’s plan, stay-at-home parents would receive the same tax deduction — capped at the average cost of state care — as working parents. 

Given what Trump has said in the past about working moms, Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, said it’s hard not to think his preference is for women to be the primary caregiver. 

“We want people to have choices, but we want all people to have choices at all income levels and genders,” she said. 

In 2011, Trump reportedly told an attorney that she was disgusting for having to break from taking a deposition to pump breast milk. In an NBC interview in 2004, he said pregnancy is an “inconvenience for business.”

Trump’s campaign seemed surprised by the criticism that his plan encourages women to stay at home.

“I don’t know it necessarily encourages that,” the spokesperson said. “I do think we are saying that a family who has a stay at home parent makes sacrifices, and so we’re acknowledging the sacrifice that family makes and monetizing the value of that stay-at-home parent’s choice.”

"Our program is fundamentally about choice," the spokesperson added. A family should be empowered to choose the caregiving arrangement that is best for them." 

David Christensen, vice president of government affairs at the conservative Family Research Council, praised Trump’s proposal, which he referred to as a “broad outline for tax reform.”

“Expanding the deduction to four children and being able to deduct the average cost of child care in your state allows some flexibility," he said. "It doesn’t tell parents you get a tax subsidy only if you’re working, it allows parents and families to make those decisions.”

4) How much would women get under Trump’s paid leave plan? 

The plan states that women will receive six weeks of paid leave, leaving some to wonder if a new mom would receive her normal wage or a percentage.  

Because the time off would be paid for through state unemployment insurance programs, Trump’s campaign said new moms will be entitled to the benefits they would receive if they were involuntarily laid off. Meaning whatever unemployment they could get is what they would be paid. State unemployment benefits vary, and the campaign used an average of $300 per week to develop the plan.

5) Where would the money come from?

Trump proposed to pay for the program by reducing improper payments in the unemployment insurance program. The Government Accountability Office has estimated that over $5 billion in improper payments are made each year.

Some say paying for family leave from the unemployment programs could lead to a reduction in benefits for jobless people, critics say.

“Presumably, if the government extends benefits to families to pay for leave, then people who currently qualify for unemployment benefits would get less, if costs aren’t going to change at all," Maag said.  

This story was updated at 1:57 p.m.