Sharisse Tracey (Courtesy Photo/changewire.org)

By Sharisse TraceyCommunity Change Fellow

Elected on a promise to care for all people, President-elect Joe Biden kicks off his term with a comprehensive legislative package. His plan has two big themes that hope to shape up the economy and get the coronavirus pandemic under control so that the U.S. can once again be open for business. But for this to happen, Congress and the new administration must be able to work together – even closer than we were pre-Covid – to ensure there is access to reliable, affordable and safe child care so people can get back to work.

Since President-elect Joe Biden was officially named as the people’s choice for President, his upcoming administration has no doubtedly been challenged by the disbelief that he is the correct commander-elect-in-chief, lies and misinformation being spewed and circulated by the soon to be former occupant of the White House. Yet the business of running our country during the worst pandemic in 100 years, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, has taken the need to get off to a running start for this new administration to a whole new level with no issue more important, in my opinion, than access to child care and health care.

During Biden’s campaign, the former vice president proposed $775 billion dollars over ten years to rebuild and fortify the nation’s caregiver economy focusing on early childhood education, in home elder care and long term care for the disabled. The first thing he pledged to do was provide emergency funding to state, local and tribal governments enabling them to keep struggling child care centers and home care workers afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Well, last Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden introduced a $1.9 trillion spending package that looks to keep his promise to America.

“We are facing an acute, immediate child care crisis in America, which is exacerbating our economic crises,” he said. “If left unaddressed, many child care providers will close–some permanently–and millions of children could go without necessary care, and millions of parents could be left to make devastating choices this winter between caring for their children and working to put food on the table.”

Child care advocates, led by Black and brown women, immediately welcomed Biden’s announcement.

“The COVID relief package proposed by President-elect Joe Biden that invests more than $40 billion to support early childhood education recognizes that in order to rebuild the economy equitably, we must provide parents, especially women, access to affordable and quality child care so they can go back to work, and also stabilize child care providers dealing with the impacts of the pandemic,” stated Wendoly Marte, Director of Economic Justice for Community Change Action.

In March 2020, the pandemic closed schools, child care centers, and after school programs catapulting parents of school aged children into a panic not only about how they’re kids would learn but who would teach them. With an estimated 70% of all Americans deemed essential workers who are still expected to report to work despite potentially not having child care, our children are left to fend for themselves in a new online environment that brings about new limitations and challenges.

Biden’s package addresses the child care crisis in America only heightened by this healthcare crisis, a pandemic that killed 4,000 Americans alone the day prior to his announcement, and closer to 400,000 in a year.

As a parent whose school aged children have been home since early Spring, I hope that the $170 billion dollars proposed to help reopen schools and provide financial relief to students will be effective soon after the President-elect is sworn is as our nation’s children, despite the best efforts by parents, our kids are are struggling to receive the quality education they deserve in a mostly online environment. I speak from experience as I too have been home with my children since the beginning of the pandemic, and as fortunate as I am to be able to work remotely, my children are still having difficulty learning and keeping up in this new online learning environment.

Biden’s relief package highlighted other key issues that embrace a caring economy to move our nation forward.

The pandemic has illuminated food insecurity within our country but specifically with our nations children’s. That’s why extending the SNAP benefit by 15 percent through September 2021 will allow more children access to the proper nutrition they need. Also listed in Biden’s proposal is an expansion of sick, family and medical leave for up to 14 weeks which will aid families struggling with illnesses related to or separate from the coronavirus. Of the 70% of Americans reported as essential workers, the proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour will allow Americans to earn roughly $31,000 annually which by no means is enough but it is a start. Similarly, the $25 billion in rental assistance and an additional $5 billion to cover home energy and water costs will go a long way in stabilizing our workers by keeping them off the street and allowing them to be warm this winter.

We can effectively say that Biden understands that he was elected based on the promise that he would work to ensure our children have safe places to live and get educated, because when we provide kids the tools they need to succeed, we are also helping America move forward to be open for business.

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