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Bicameral Legislation to Expand Child Care & Early Learning Programs

February 26, 2019, 1:40 PM HST
* Updated February 26, 1:41 PM
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Sen. Mazie K. Hirono joined Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), as well as 30 of their Senate colleagues, parents, and child care educators and advocates, to reintroduce the Child Care for Working Families Act. The bill seeks to expand access to high-quality, affordable early childhood programs for working and middle class families. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives with Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI-AL) and 96 House members.

Sen. Hirono. Courtesy photo.

“Child care is foundational for future academic and social success, yet remains unaffordable and unavailable for many working and middle class families in Hawai‘i—who face the highest cost of living in the country,” Sen. Hirono said. “At nearly $700 per month, child care is the second highest household expense after housing for most families—surpassing the amount they spend on food, utilities, transportation or health care. The Child Care for Working Families Act represents a long-term investment in our keiki to ensure that every family can access high-quality, affordable early learning and child care programs.”

“All around the country, parents are struggling to find and afford high-quality child care, and some are even being forced to work fewer hours or not work at all so they can take care of their children,” Sen. Murray said. “I know we can do better—that is why I’m proud to reintroduce the Child Care for Working Families Act today to ensure every working family has access to high-quality, affordable child care, and that our child care educators are paid what they deserve. This is not only the right thing to do for working families, but it’s a smart investment in our children, our future, and our economy.”

“Affordable, high-quality child care helps give children the early learning experiences they need to succeed in school, enables parents to work so they can support their families and provides certainty to employers who are able to retain skilled, productive workers,” Sen. Casey said. “Investing in child care is good for children and for our economy and that is why I am a proud original cosponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the HELP Committee to advance this legislation.”

“The high cost of child care is a heavy burden that falls on children, families, and our economy as a whole,” Bobby Scott, chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, said. “Children are too often denied the foundation they need to reach their potential, parents are forced to choose between child care and work, and these challenges have both short- and long-term consequences for our economy. The Child Care for Working Families Act addresses this national crisis by ensuring that all families can afford to send their children to a quality child care program that will support them through a critical stage in their lives.”

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For families in Hawai‘i, child care expenses have increased, on average, by 24% over the last decade, with many families expected to pay over $8,000 for child care every year. According to a 2018 report by Child Care Aware of America, nearly half of Hawai‘i’s children under the age of six lack access to child care, resulting in a shortage of 30,000 certified child care slots in the state. The Child Care for Working Families Act represents a long-term investment in child care to ensure that no family making 150% of state median income or less has to contribute more than seven percent of their income toward child care, regardless of the number of children they have.

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Additionally, the bill also increases funding for Head Start in order to promote universal access to high-quality preschool programs, and improves compensation and training for child care workers to give teachers and caregivers full and fair compensation, as well as the support they need to ensure that the children they are caring for can thrive.

According to the Center for American Progress, investing in the Child Care for Working Families Act would generate 2.3 million new jobs as a result of parents joining the workforce, as well as the expansion of child care and early education sector jobs. As a result of an investment in child care and early education, the report stated it expects the Child Care for Working Families Act would lift one million families out of poverty, which would substantially improve a child’s social and academic development.

Sens. Hirono and Murray previously introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act in September 2017. In 2018, Senator Hirono played an important role in advocating for and securing robust funding for the Preschool Development Grant program, Head Start, Early Head Start, the Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five program, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant.

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In addition to Sens. Hirono, Murray, and Casey, the bill is also cosponsored by Sens. Baldwin (D-Wis.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Booker (D-N.J.), Brown (D-Ohio), Cantwell (D-Wash.), Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Duckworth (D-Ill.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Feinstein (D-Calif.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Harris (D-Calif.), Hassan (D-N.H.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Leahy (D-Vt.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Murphy (D-Conn.), Reed (D-R.I.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Schatz (D-Hawaii), Schumer (D-N.Y.), Van Hollen (D-Md.), Warren (D-Mass.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Wyden (D-Ore.), Coons (D-Del.), Cardin (D-Md.), Markey (D-Mass.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Smith (D-Minn.) and Peters (D-Mich.).

Legislative text of the Child Care for Working Families Act can be found here. A fact sheet on the Child Care for Working Families Act can be found here.

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