June 23, 2022

Congressman Castro Presses House and Senate Leadership to Make Bold Investments in Affordable Child Care for Texas Families

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), founding co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pre-K and Child Care Caucus, Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (CA-53), and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) led 124 of their House colleagues in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi urging the Senate to include robust child care investments in any upcoming budget reconciliation package. The letter expresses support for the Child Care Reconciliation Plan spearheaded by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).  

“COVID-19 put a unique burden on Texas’s child care providers, who were underpaid and overworked even before the pandemic,” said Congressman Castro. “As we work to rebuild our nation’s Infrastructure of Opportunity, we need to make real investments in child care to help parents get back to work, create good jobs, and set every child up for the future they deserve. I’m proud to join my House colleagues to press for the inclusion of child care and early learning investments in the next reconciliation package.”

The child care crisis has created significant challenges for families, providers, businesses, and the economy. Over 30% of families lived in child care deserts before the pandemic, and 40% of parents report going into debt to pay for child care. Meanwhile, nearly 10% of child care providers have closed since the start of the pandemic, and child care programs that remain open are struggling to attract and retain staff due to poverty level wages. 

The Murray-Kaine Child Care Reconciliation Plan would make historic investments in the nation’s child care assistance program, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which would expand access to child care to more than one million new children and their families. The proposal includes funding to expand the supply of child care facilities, establish and expand preschool programs, and raise compensation for early childhood educators, including Head Start teachers. Notably, the proposal would create a pilot program to allow participating states to offer child care assistance to families earning up to 250% of state median income and cap families’ child care expenses at 7% of family income – priorities supported by the House-passed Build Back Better Act. 

The letter is endorsed by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), MomsRising, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the National Education Association (NEA), ZERO TO THREE, Save the Children, Center for American Progress (CAP), First Focus Campaign for Children, The Education Trust, AFSCME, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

The full text of the letter can be found below, and a copy of the letter can be found here

Dear Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi:  

As the Senate continues deliberations on a new economic reconciliation package, we write to express support for the recent Murray-Kaine proposal on child care and early learning investments and urge its inclusion in the reconciliation package. This new proposal will provide children and working families with critical support to access quality, affordable child care and give child care providers additional resources they so desperately need to help get our economy back on track. Leaving child care out of an upcoming reconciliation package is unacceptable. Parents, especially women, need this investment to get back to work, and employers need their workers to have reliable child care. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the child care industry has faced numerous and steep challenges in their work to adequately serve the population most affected by the pandemic. Families were forced to choose between staying home to care for their children or returning to the workforce and relying on inefficient or scarce alternatives. Furthermore, as inflationary pressures increase and families face rising child care prices, this proposal will allow parents, families, and child care workers to offset part of that burden. The funding will allow those parents who have been unable to rejoin the workforce an opportunity to continue their careers, make sure that their children are adequately cared for, and support the existing child care workforce. 

Supporting the child care workforce is a matter of both economic and racial justice, as the House recognized when it passed a robust child care package in the Build Back Better Act. Data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that caregivers earn an average of just $12.24 per hour. And we know that the inadequate wages are disproportionately harmful to the women, and overwhelmingly women of color, who make up the care workforce. According to The Education Trust, Black child care workers earn an average of 78 cents less per hour than their white counterparts, even when controlling for education level. The investments in the Murray-Kaine proposal are long overdue updates that will provide these workers with better access to fair compensation and recognize the importance of their work. 

We approve of the balanced approach in the proposal between strengthening existing programs and allowing for innovation. The Murray- Kaine plan will triple resources for the nation’s existing child care assistance program, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). This funding would be available to every state, allowing parents and families across the country to access reliable and effective child care options. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), more than 1 million new children and their families could receive child care assistance to lower their costs through the plan’s CCDBG investment. Additionally, we support the proposal’s dedicated funding for increasing wages for Head Start staff, expanding access to high-quality preschool, expanding the supply of high-quality child care, and improving compensation for the early childhood workforce—priorities supported in the House's Build Back Better Act. 

We are also particularly supportive of the proposal’s creation of a pilot program that allows some states to test a child care system in which a broader set of low- and middle-income families will not pay more than 7 percent of their income for child care for children under age six. This pilot will incentivize innovation and reform that is desperately needed in the field. 

As parents look to return to the workforce and workers in all industries aim to deal with inflationary price increases, child care funding remains crucial to fostering a strong care and early education system and strengthening our economy. Thank you for your consideration of our request, we look forward to working with you on this important initiative.