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Patty Murray

11/29/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/29/2023 21:12

Senator Murray, Colleagues Take to Senate Floor to Share How Child Care Crisis is Hurting Constituents, Urge Action from Congress

***WATCH: Senator Murray highlights urgency of tackling growing child care crisis on Senate floor***

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, led a number of her Senate colleagues in speaking on the Senate floor about how the worsening child care crisis is hurting families and local economies in every state in the country-and stressing the need to address the crisis by acting on President Biden's supplemental funding request to extend vital stabilization funds.

"We cannot pretend child care is any less urgent than the other challenges we face," Senator Murray said on the Senate floor. "The writing is on the wall right now, in big, bold letters: the child care crisis is only going to get worse unless we take action-and soon!"

"Back in my home state, I've heard so many stories of families struggling with this. I just read a story about two parents: Lara and Rob-Rob had to leave his company to get a more flexible schedule because child care was too expensive, so he and Lara have to trade off shifts and work fewer hours to make sure someone is watching the kids. And they are far from the only ones struggling with this," said Senator Murray. "Failing to shore up the child care industry that holds up nearly every sector of our economy, in the midst of a workforce shortage that is hitting small businesses and big firms alike will cost us much more than the investment in child care we are asking for. We are going to lose jobs. We are going to lose workers. And our economy is going to continue to lose billions more in lost wages, revenue, and growth."

In remarks on the floor, Senators from across the country shared how vital child care is to constituents in their states, how the expiration of stabilization funds is further straining the child care sector, families, and local economies, and how essential it is that Congress take action to address the growing crisis.

Child care is a top concern for families and a top economic challenge-each year, the child care crisis costs the U.S. economy over $120 billion. A recent report by the President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) found that the child care stabilization program Senator Murray and congressional Democrats passed saved families with young children who rely on paid child care about $1,250 per child per year and helped hundreds of thousands of women with children enter or rejoin the workforce more quickly. The program helped 220,000 child care providers keep their doors open and reached 96% of counties nationwide-helping to protect child care for as many as 10 million kids nationwide. But now that the funding expired at the end of September, the sector is once again on the brink-with terrible consequences for families and communities nationwide.

An October survey of child care providers and families shows that 29% of families reported their child care tuition costs went up in the preceding month, 28% of child care providers who ran out of stabilization funding had to cut wages or were unable to sustain salary increases, and 24% reported they were now serving fewer children.

Senator Murray's remarks, as delivered, are below:

"Madam President, thank you.

"As you well know, because we've talked about it, our child care system is simply broken. It is not working for families across our country, and we face a crisis now that continues to grow worse. I've said that many times-many times. And I will say it again, and again, and again until we fix this broken system for good.

"And I am not the only one in Congress who feels that way. Earlier this month, 48 of my Senate colleagues sent a letter to me, and Vice Chair Collins, Leader Schumer, and Leader McConnell, urging us to include child care funding in any emergency supplemental.

"Today, many of them are joining me here on the Senate floor to lift up the concerns that we are hearing from parents, and making the case for providing robust child care funding without delay.

"We cannot pretend that child care is any less urgent than the other challenges we face. For every parent, child care is a 'do it now' problem, not a 'do it later' problem. We need to treat it the same way here: urgent and essential. Parents can't wait-they have work tomorrow! They need accessible options now.

"Child care workers cannot wait-they have to pay rent this month, they have to put food on the table tonight-they need a salary that lets them take care of their own families and that lets them keep doing what they love instead of taking a higher pay in retail or food service to keep their families afloat.

"Providers can't wait-their margins are already razor thin. If they don't get the support they need to cover operating costs until after they have raised prices and cut off families, after workers have already left, or after they are forced to close their doors, well, it's too late!

"Madam President, the writing is on the wall right now, in big, bold letters: the child care crisis is only going to get worse unless we take action-and soon!

"Child care providers across the country are hanging on by a thread-especially now that our stabilization funding has expired, cutting off a lifeline that helped 220,000 providers stay open, and helped provide child care to nearly ten million kids-while raising wages for child care workers and lowering prices for working families.

"If child care centers don't get the support they need to make ends meet, the options for children and families are not pretty. We're talking about a very real possibility that child care centers have to reduce the pay for their staff, lay off staff, serve fewer kids and families, raise their prices, or-in too many cases-just simply shut their doors.

"This is a huge problem for working parents who can scarcely find child care as it is. And even if they can find openings-that doesn't mean they can afford them. In fact, the already high cost of child care is only getting worse. The latest data shows that in September, child care prices jumped by the largest percent in a year!

"That means parents, especially moms, are feeling the crunch and far too many are going to be forced to leave their job, or unable to return to the workforce, because it just doesn't square with their family finances.

"Back in my home state, I've heard so many stories of families struggling with this. I just read a story about two parents: Lara and Rob. Rob had to leave his company to get a more flexible schedule, because child care was too expensive, so he and Lara have to trade off shifts and work fewer hours to make sure someone is watching the kids.

"And they are far from the only ones struggling with this. The KUOW article featuring their story this week also mentioned Monica, she's a therapist and former child care worker-who trades off working and watching the kids with her husband, who is a police officer. And Skye, who also is trading off shifts with her husband, since their child care provider closed.

"As she put it, 'I definitely can't pay for soccer, and my mortgage, and some child care. I have to pick. So we've chosen soccer, and mortgage, and putting together this bizarre schedule where my husband is exhausted all the time and we barely see each other.'

"Madam President, that's what parents are going through-across Washington state, and across our entire country. It is hurting everyone. You can draw a straight line from the expiration of the child care stabilization funds at the end of September to the painful closure of child care providers to the subsequent scramble by parents now to find new-and likely more expensive-child care for their kids, that is squeezing parents out of hours on the job, if not out of the workforce entirely, right to the employers who are left without the workers they need-because you better believe it's going to have an impact on their bottom line.

"Failing to shore up our child care industry that holds up nearly every sector of our economy, in the midst of a workforce shortage that is hitting small businesses and big firms alike, will cost us a lot much more than the investment in child care we're asking for.

"We are going to lose jobs. We are going to lose workers. And our economy is going to continue to lose billions more in lost wages, and revenue, and growth.

"We are talking a serious meltdown that costs our economy big, if we fail to value our families and invest in the people parents need to watch over their kids.

"There is no reason for this-not if we take action, and take it soon.

"Madam President, as you well know, we cannot ignore child care. This is hugely important for our national economy. It is one of the biggest line items on family budgets-in many states, including my home state of Washington, child care costs more than college tuition!

"We have to continue to stabilize the child care system, instead of standing by and letting things get worse, and worse, and worse. Families get this. All my colleagues on the floor with me today get this. And, thankfully, President Biden does as well.

"The President sent Congress a request for supplemental funding for urgent domestic priorities-and child care was at the top of that list. Now, I am calling on all our colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to work with us to pass a package that funds critical needs at home, especially child care.

"Madam President, I think everyone understands there is a lot happening in the world today-that's why we absolutely need to pass supplemental funding to meet our urgent national security challenges and soon.

"But, as we continue working to do that, we also have to tackle the problems facing families here at home-and that means addressing the growing child care crisis. We are the United States of America. We can stand with our allies around the world and tackle the challenges we face with our facing our families here at home.

"If we are serious about the strength of this nation, our communities, and our families, we have got to respond to the domestic challenges with the same resolve as we do with the national security challenges.

"I am going to continue to work hard with everyone to do that, and I appreciate everybody's support and all of my colleagues who are here today to speak out on that."

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