U.S. Senator Tina Smith Joins Colleagues to Unveil New Child Care Bill

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) joined over three dozen lawmakers led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) in unveiling new legislation that would expand access to affordable child care to every American family, offer high-quality early education to every child, and create good jobs for our early educators.

“Access to childcare is essential, both for the safe and healthy development of our kids, and because it allows parents the freedom to pursue their careers and contribute to the economy,” said Senator Smith. “But right now, childcare is too expensive and inaccessible for many families. I am proud to cosponsor this legislation which would ensure every family has access to high-quality, affordable childcare so that our kids, their parents, and our economy can reach their full potential.” 

Under the legislation, half of families nationwide would pay no more than $10 a day for child care, and all families would see their child care costs capped. Additionally, the bill would introduce a sliding scale system to ensure child care is significantly more affordable based on families’ income, similar to the U.S. military child care program.

Lack of access to high-quality, affordable child care prevents parents from fully participating in the workforce, holding them back from career opportunities, making it hard for businesses to find workers, and placing a drag on our entire economy. Lack of affordable, high-quality care and early education also means many children in the U.S. start kindergarten without the skills they need to reach their full potential.

The Child Care for Every Community Act will ensure that every family in every community has access to high-quality, affordable child care and early learning opportunities by establishing a network of federally-supported, locally-administered child care options. These high-quality, affordable child care and early learning options will provide every child in America with a fair opportunity to reach their full potential and will improve economic, child development, and employment outcomes for children and families. The legislation:

  1. Ensures universal access: This legislation provides a mandatory federal investment to establish and support a network of locally-run Child Care and Early Learning Centers and Family Child Care Homes so that every family, regardless of their income or employment, can access high-quality, affordable child care options for their children from birth to school entry.
  2. Guarantees affordability: Half of families nationwide will pay no more than $10 a day for child care, and all families would see their child care costs capped.  A sliding scale will ensure that fees are affordable based on families’ income, as in the U.S. military child care program.  Higher-income families would pay no more than 7% of their income, while lower-income families making less than 75% of their state median income would be fully subsidized.
  3. Provides high-quality, essential developmental services: Centers and Family Child Care Homes will meet high quality standards based on current U.S. military child care and the Head Start program standards. Providers would receive support and time to meet new requirements, which would focus on early learning and social-emotional development. Like Head Start, the program would offer a full range of comprehensive mental and physical health, dental, and other services to children who need them in a safe and nurturing environment that promotes children’s holistic growth and development.
  4. Is locally-administered and federally-supported: As originally envisioned in the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971, the federal government would partner with local sponsors – cities, school districts, states, counties, tribal organizations, or other nonprofit community entities – to administer the program in a way that prioritizes local community needs and coheres early childhood systems. These sponsors would act as local “hubs” by establishing networks of Child Care and Early Learning Centers and Family Child Care Homes options for families, mirroring options currently available to military families. 
  5. Invests in child care workers: The legislation ensures parity by requiring that wages and benefits for child care workers be comparable to those of similarly-credentialed local public school teachers, and invests in worker training and professional development modeled after the military child care program.

Joining the legislation as cosponsors are Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). 

The bill is being introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and is cosponsored by Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), delegate to the United States House of Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton, Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), Greg Casar (D-Texas), Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Greg Landsman (D-Ohio), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-N.J.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Pa.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Ma.), and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).

The bill is endorsed by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Coalition for Social Justice, Community Change Action, Main Street Alliance, MomsRising, Save the Children, Small Business Majority, UnidosUS and Jumpstart for Young Children, Inc.

You can find the full text of the bill here.