By Cecile Richards | June 21, 2021
In 2020, before the pandemic hit, women were more than half the wage earners in America. Now, more than a year later, over 2.5 million women have lost their jobs, and economists estimate women’s workforce participation has fallen to levels not seen since the 1980s. The pandemic alone didn’t create this inequity. It simply exposed what women have known forever: The system wasn’t built for us.
Fortunately, President Biden gets it, and between his American Rescue Plan, American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, he is proposing big investments in what women have needed for years: affordable child care, paid family leave, and high-quality free pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. The American Families Plan alone invests $225 billion to lower the cost and improve the quality of child care, and we need Congress to pass it now.
When my twins were born, I knew that if I wanted to keep working, it meant finding child care for three young kids. Like a lot of new moms, I had to work to pay for that care. I didn’t want to leave my career, but I also knew I was working for essentially no pay—everything I earned went to day care, and that was not always easy to find. Plus, any time a kid was sick, someone had to stay home—and more often than not, it was me.
That’s why President Biden’s American Families Plan, which would pay for early childhood education for all 3- and 4-year-olds is so exciting, and so long overdue. It will give all kids a more equal footing, and the chance to do well in school later on. It relieves young parents from the crushing financial burden of paying for child care for those important early years. The American Families Plan also provides comprehensive paid family and medical leave, so more parents can take the time they need to care for a sick loved one or a new child.
Second, President Biden’s new tax credit expansions—up to $3,600 in cash for parents of children, and an additional up to $8,000 tax credit for parents of two or more children under 13—mean that day care and after school care just became more affordable. President Biden has also proposed extending these tax credits. The bottom line is now it’s going to be easier to raise a family in America.
The president’s plan will also prevent low-income families from having to pay more than 7 percent of their income on child care for children under five—saving the average family $14,800 per year on child care. Studies over the past year show that 40 percent of women who left the workforce or reduced their hours did it due to the need to care for someone in their family. Women had to make basic economic choices about whether they could ‘afford’ to keep working. With the child tax credit and the American Families Plan, moms—and all parents—have a lot more options.
To grow our economy, we need everyone to be able to participate, and that includes women. President Biden is doing what no other president has: recognizing what it takes for true equal participation in the workforce. He is investing in 3- and 4-year-old pre-K, making child care accessible and affordable, and ensuring we can take paid time off for family illness without losing our jobs. Now that’s a real jobs plan.
Millions of women want the economic security and independence that comes with having a job, and President Biden has put forward a plan to do just that. It’s time that Republicans in Congress get on board and join the 21st century. Women and families are counting on this help. Let’s get it done.
Cecile Richards served as president of Planned Parenthood from 2006-2018. She is now a co-chair of American Bridge 21st Century.