Biden's 'historic' child care order: What's in it?
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Many working parents and other guardians often worry about how they’ll hold down a job because there are such limited options available for preschool and daycare — and prices are sky high.
Teachers and caregivers feel the strain too, often earning poverty wages.
They’re all waiting on Congress to act on this child care crisis. And, President Biden has stepped in with an executive order to help.
“We have a lot to do with Congress and we will continue to do that, but these are steps that can be taken really quickly,” says Jen Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council.
Advocates call Biden’s order “historic” and a good first step.
Lea Austin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, sees the benefits of the order even if Congressional work isn’t over.
“Ultimately, it is going to take greater investments and congressional action to transform our childcare system into one that can support all families and early educators,” she says. “But until then, these are really important actions.”
The executive order aims to support caregivers in multiple ways, but Klein says it targets child care directly on two fronts.
“The first is, it will lower costs for families benefiting from the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which is a program that’s run with state governments, as well as federal government,” Klein says. “It will go directly to Head Start, to improving the pay for Head Start providers, which is a historic problem.”
3 questions with Jen Klein of the Biden administration
How does the order help parents, families and childcare providers?
“President Biden has long made it a priority to help families and individuals in two ways.
“First and foremost, [to] access affordable, high quality care. And also, to support the care workers who are disproportionately women, women of color and immigrants who are among the lowest paid in the country, despite working on often complex demanding jobs.”
How soon may Head Start teachers see a bump in pay?
“The Department of Health and Human Services will work really quickly to get these steps in place. And what they have committed to do is take steps to increase the pay and benefits for Head Start teachers and staff.
“Beyond Head Start, [the goal is] to implement policies so that more childcare providers [are included] who are part of the what’s called the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which is a program that’s run with states and the federal government that provides childcare subsidies for many families across this country …Those childcare providers should receive higher reimbursements for the children that they serve.”
What about the concern that the order’s language may not signal urgency?
“This will come into effect really quickly. That’s the benefit of doing it by executive order. We have a lot of work to do with Congress and we will continue to do that, but these are steps that can be taken really quickly.
“I’ll just give you one other example that’s a step that’s already been taken. And this executive order builds off of federal agencies, particularly those with new funds that were made possible through the president’s historic legislative achievements, like the CHIPS and Science Act, like the Inflation Reduction Act. They can work immediately to identify which programs can support care for workers who are delivering on federal projects. This has already been done in the context of the CHIPS and Science Act by Secretary Raimondo. And what this executive order does is open that possibility to those people who are seeking contracts with the federal government to expand access to care for their workers.”
Ashley Locke produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Gabe Bullard. Locke adapted it for the web.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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