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Elizabeth Warren unveils federal child care proposal

The Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act would aim to reduce the ‘painfully high’ cost of child care

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Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has proposed a federal child care plan which would provide grants to states, cities, nonprofits, schools, and other local partners to “create a network of child care options that would be available to every family.”

In a blog post on Medium, Warren noted that the average cost of child care in the U.S. can range from 9 to 36 percent of a family’s income, depending on where they live. Under Warren’s proposed plan, a sliding scale would be used to determine how much families would pay for child care for young children.

Families would not be required to pay more than 7 percent of their income on child care expenses. For poorer and lower-middle-class households, child care services would be free.

"In the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, high-quality child care should be a right for all of our children and not just a privilege that only the wealthiest families can afford," said Senator Warren. "We need a government that invests in our children because they are our future and that is what the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act will do."

Improving the quality of services

In addition to easing the financial burden of child care for families, Warren’s proposed plan would aim to improve the quality of child care services.

The plan would provide federal funding for "a locally-run network of Child Care and Early Learning Centers and Family Child Care Homes so that every family, regardless of their income or employment, has high-quality, affordable child care options for their children from birth to school entry."

Child care providers would be “held to high national standards,” and an estimated 12 million children would access this high-quality option -- up from about 6.8 million children under 5 who receive formal child care today.

Warren noted that limited child care options -- in terms of both cost and quality -- are preventing parents of kids who aren’t yet old enough to attend public school from jumping back into the workforce. 

She argued that the “lack of access to high-quality, affordable care prevents parents from fully participating in the workforce, holding them back from career and educational opportunities and placing a drag on our entire economy.”

Warren’s plan, which was assessed by Moody’s economist Mark Zandi, would cost about $70 billion a year, or $700 billion over 10 years. It would be funded by "approximately a quarter of the revenue raised from Senator Warren's proposed Ultra-Millionaire Tax.”

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