Remarks by Vice President Harris on the administration’s proposed investments in child care
3:55 p.m. EDT
THE VICE-PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. Thank you, Nicholas, for sharing your story and, as you and I discussed behind the scenes, for your courage and for the leadership that you, your wife and all of your family have provided.
The work you have done reminds us that the work we have before us is important work. It is noble work. It’s about supporting working families in America. And this work will make a difference in the lives of all these working families.
So, it’s wonderful to be here at the Treasury Department. And I want to thank you, again, Secretary Janet Yellen and the amazing team that you have assembled, for welcoming me here today.
At this historic moment, the work that each of you is doing in the Treasury is extremely important. You have worked tirelessly on everything from regulating global financial markets to implementing the US bailout. Your work transforms the lives of everyday Americans and strengthens our entire nation.
So, first of all, I want to thank you, the hardworking and talented team, the staff here at the Treasury Department.
Shortly after President Joe Biden and I took office, I called the mass exodus of women from the workforce a national emergency. Because it is what it is: a national emergency.
The pandemic has hit women workers extremely hard and disproportionately. More layoffs in industries where women are likely to work. No more closures of small businesses owned by women. And without childcare, working parents were totally stuck.
Working mothers took on more and more responsibility at home, as Nicholas has described in his personal experience. In fact, childcare issues have been cited as the reason many working mothers had to quit their jobs during the pandemic.
From day one, as Secretary Yellen can attest, our administration has worked hard to get women back to work. And I believe it’s a fight for our future, because when we talk about fighting for working families, working women, we are fighting for the children of America. And, by extension, we are fighting for the future of our country.
When women are able to participate fully in our workforce, our families, our communities and our country are stronger. Consider, for example, the impact on our economy in general. Some estimates suggest that our GDP would increase by five percentage points if women participated in the labor force at the same rate as men.
If we intend to fully recover from the pandemic, if we intend to be fully competitive globally, we must ensure the full participation of women in the labor market.
And even more than the dollar and pennies of it all, I would say, it concerns the kind of nation that we are – a nation that is stronger when everyone can participate, and weaker when everyone is left out. .
Fundamentally, I think it is our responsibility as a government to ensure that everyone, women and men alike, has the power to determine their own future. It is about giving people options to live a life of dignity. And that includes affordable and accessible options for sending their children to high-quality child care.
Today the Treasury Department – and the occasion of our gathering – released a report titled “The Economics of Child Care.”
For so many working people – and for women in particular – childcare is a prerequisite for being able to work. Child care is what keeps millions of Americans working.
And yet, this report confirms what millions of American families know and experience every day: Child care remains too expensive and out of reach for far too many working families in our country.
This report confirms that we need to cut costs through significant public investment in our child care industry.
And this report confirms that, tragically, the United States is lagging behind globally on this issue of investing in child care.
In fact, we invest less public money in early childhood education than almost any other developed country. We have to do better. And President Joe Biden and I are determined to do just that with all of you.
Right now, Congress is reviewing our Build Back Better program. Supporting and strengthening working families is one of our highest priorities. Once passed, our program will expand the child tax credit. It will extend paid family leave. And it will reduce child care costs for every working family.
Our program could save the average family almost $ 15,000 per year in child care costs, or about $ 1,200 per month. Our program will also make universal pre-management – universal preschool a universal reality. All three and four year old children will have access to a quality nursery school.
By expanding child care options and reducing child care costs, we will give workers everywhere the support they need to dream, build and determine their own future.
And I know it from my own life. I learned this at a very young age based on what I witnessed. You see, my mother was a scientist. She was a breast cancer researcher. And she had two goals in her life: to raise her two daughters and to end breast cancer.
And every day of the week and many weekends my mother worked long hours in the lab. And when she did, my sister and I were walking down two doors – just a few yards – to Mrs. Regina Shelton’s house.
Ms. Shelton ran a daycare and became a second mother to my sister and me. My mom would say this often without Mrs. Shelton, she couldn’t have done the job she was doing. She could not have made the contribution she made to the fight against breast cancer. She could not have achieved her ambitions for herself and her two daughters.
All working moms and parents deserve the kind of support my mom found in Mrs. Shelton. Thanks to Build Back Better, this is exactly the kind of support our administration intends to provide.
And with that, I’ll turn it over to our Grand Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen. (Applause.)
4:04 p.m. EDT