Wyden Urges Congress to Act on Affordable Child Care for All
Watch a video of Wyden’s Senate Floor remarks here
As Prepared for Delivery
I rise today to highlight a critical issue that is top of mind for working families in Oregon and everywhere - the lack of quality, affordable child care in America.
I hold open-to-all town halls in every county of my state each year. No matter how big, or small, or blue or red, overwhelmingly I hear the same thing. Working parents across Oregon can’t afford or can’t find the child care they need while they work to pay their bills. In a nation as powerful and prosperous as ours, this is unacceptable.
As a proud supporter of the Child Care Stabilization Act, and as the author of the Building Child Care for a Better Future Act, I strongly believe that child care is the lifeblood of the American economy. Congress has an obligation to keep the child care sector afloat. I stand here today ready to find a path forward to make sure that every family in America has access to the child care they need.
Sadly, America’s child care crisis isn’t a new problem. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 50 percent of counties in the United States were considered to be child care deserts - meaning that families in these counties either could find no child care provider or they were placed on a waitlist so long they couldn’t get a spot.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic that left the child care industry hanging by a thread. Parents – especially women – were forced to drop out of the workforce to care for their children. Child care providers struggled to keep their doors open and their staff on payroll. Thankfully, Democrats understood what was at stake during this critical moment and passed the American Rescue Plan, which included $24 billion to child care providers to keep their businesses going.
That funding expired months ago, and child care providers are looking at their books – and the numbers aren’t adding up. We are already hearing reports that child care centers are closing their doors – which will ultimately leave more families without child care. This means more families are being forced to make impossible decisions about working to pay their bills or making sure their kids are taken care of.
Congressional inaction isn’t just hurting American families. It’s hurting American businesses, and it’s hurting the American economy. If you don’t have child care, you can’t go to work. Reliable child care means a reliable workforce. Without it, American businesses lose an estimated $12.7 billion each year.
I hear colleagues on both sides of the aisle talk about the need to successfully compete with China. Well, if you want to compete, we’ve got to be in a position to have people go to work. Making sure working families have child care is the only option.
This isn’t a red or blue issue. It’s not a rural or urban issue. It’s an everyone issue. And there’s no doubt in my mind that all of my colleagues are hearing from their own constituents what I hear at my town halls. Colleagues, let’s work together. Let’s help working families. Let’s support one of the most critical sectors in our economy. Let’s make sure America can compete.
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