At the start of 2020, the unemployment rate for women was at a 75-year low. In fact, under President Trump’s pro-growth economy, women accounted for more of the workforce than men for only the second time in U.S. history.
Enter the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted virtually every sector of the economy, shuttered nearly three quarters of America’s schools and dramatically shifted the childcare situation for many. The pandemic exacerbated a problem that previously existed just below the surface: a lack of affordable, accessible childcare.
Almost exactly one year later, we are seeing signs of an economic recovery. But as families and working mothers emerge from the pandemic, they are finding a lack of childcare options in their communities.
As working moms, we believe in parental choice, affordability and accessibility for women and families. That’s why, as members of the Republican Study Committee, we introduced the Childcare Choices Act and the Child Care Accessibility Report and Evaluation (CARE) Act, and reintroduced the Working Families Flexibility Act.
Finding affordable childcare has become a near-impossibility for many working families across the country. Many providers are opting to leave the industry entirely rather than navigate the complex regulatory barriers. As a result, many communities are left in a “childcare drought.”
The Childcare Choices Act, authored by Rep. Michelle Fischbach, would prioritize federal childcare development funds to be used as individual vouchers for parents. This legislation would provide parents with needed flexibility to make decisions for their children, and would encourage more home, family and faith-based providers to enter the market.
Even before the pandemic, the total number of childcare providers was declining, as burdensome regulations and unnecessary licensing requirements forced providers to shut their doors. A study from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University finds that many of these regulations increase the cost of care without necessarily improving quality or safety for children. This makes childcare even harder to access for families in rural America, including many of Congresswoman Hinson’s constituents in Iowa.
That is why the 37-year-old mom of two introduced the Child CARE Act, which would direct the United States Department of Health and Human Services to submit a report to Congress that analyzes the effects of state regulations on the affordability and accessibility of childcare.
Congress would then be able to use this information to make informed decisions about how to use limited federal resources to support access to affordable, trustworthy childcare nationwide.
This is a commonsense solution that will help ensure parents have access to quality, affordable childcare options regardless of where they live. These overburdensome regulations are one of the driving forces behind such high closure rates among childcare providers. We must take a hard look at the current system to ensure these regulations guarantee safe care for our children without harming the industry and working parents across the country.
Meanwhile, the Working Families Flexibility Act, authored by Rep. Mary Miller, is being reintroduced. This bill would give employers the ability to offer their employees the option of compensatory time off or overtime pay, both accrued at one-and-half times the overtime hours worked.
So, a working mother who needs more time at home due to her child’s school closure and lack of access to childcare would be able to take the time off because of the overtime she accrued previously. This employer-employee agreement is already available for federal workers and the bill would simply provide the same option for working mothers in the private sector.
Whether it’s supporting parent’s personal choice for childcare, flexible work opportunities, or getting children back to school, Republican Study Committee members are continuing to put forward policies for working mothers, written by working mothers.
Rep. Michelle Fischbach, a mother of two and grandmother of five, represents Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District. Rep. Ashley Hinson, a 37-year old mother of two, represents Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. Rep. Mary Miller, a mother of seven and grandmother of 17, represents Illinois’s 15th Congressional District. They are members of the Republican Study Committee.