Hillary Clinton is a Democratic candidate for president and a former secretary of state and U.S. senator from New York.
Jennifer lives in Loudoun County. She has three young boys. She pays $2,500 every month for child care. That’s more than her mortgage.
This month in Northern Virginia, I met several moms and dads who told me similar stories.
In every state in the country, child care for two kids now costs more than the average rent. You read that right — child care costs more than housing. And in many states, it’s even more expensive than college tuition.
For parents who need to work, this is more than an inconvenience. It’s a crisis.
And it’s particularly urgent in the District, which is now the priciest child-care market in America.
A recent national survey found that more than three-quarters of mothers and half of fathers say they’ve had to pass up work opportunities, switch jobs or even quit working because there was no other way to pay for child care. But working fewer hours or dropping out of the workforce altogether can have long-term consequences for families’ incomes.
A lack of quality child care can be dangerous, too. In 2014, nine children in Virginia died in unlicensed day-care centers. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) recently signed a bill to improve statewide safety standards, but without more federal funding, there’s only so much that states can do.
We’ve got to make investing in child care a national priority, especially for young parents, many of whom are trying to pay off student loans.
I remember how difficult it was when Chelsea was born. I was a young lawyer in Arkansas trying to start a career. Bill was working hard all the time. We did everything we could to put our daughter first, and we had all kinds of advantages that many families didn’t. Still, it was a juggling act.
Today’s families have it worse. Child care, college and housing costs have skyrocketed while incomes have barely budged. And workplace policies haven’t changed even though families have, with women earning more of the family income than ever and men doing much more to care for kids and aging parents.
Many workers don’t have paid family leave. Many women don’t even get a single paid day off to give birth. The pressures are so intense that some workers worry that taking an earned vacation day will be seen as slacking off.
It’s not supposed to be easy, but it shouldn’t be this hard.
As president, I would work to make quality, affordable child care available to all families.
I’m committed to increasing federal investments and incentivizing states so that no family ever has to pay more than 10 percent of its income for child care. This is a big idea, and I’m determined to fight for it.
Let’s double our investment in programs I helped develop as first lady: Early Head Start and the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program. These programs bring an evidenced-based curriculum to child care and make sure kids get the best possible start in life, no matter how much money their families have.
Let’s lighten the burden on the one-quarter of college students who are parents by providing scholarships of up to $1,500 per year for child care.
And because none of this would be possible without talented and hardworking child-care professionals, let’s make sure we’re paying them a decent wage, too.
In addition to affordable child care, working parents deserve the security of knowing they won’t lose income — or their jobs — for taking care of themselves or a loved one. One dad in Virginia told me that to stay home for his newborn’s early days, he had to cobble together sick days and vacation days. Many people can’t do even that.
It’s time we stopped being the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t offer workers paid family leave. That’s why I strongly support the paid family leave proposal the D.C. Council is pursuing. We should encourage states and local communities to take action as long as Congress refuses to act.
Under my plan, working Americans would earn up to seven days of paid sick leave each year. They would be guaranteed up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for a new baby or sick family member or to recover from an illness or injury. And we can fully fund this program by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share of taxes.
It’s all too easy for “kitchen table issues” such as these to get overlooked in our politics. But they matter to families. They matter to kids. And they’ve been the work of my life.
So until America’s moms and dads can sleep a little easier, I’m going to keep bringing them up.