One of the primary lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic is that without essential workers teaching our kids, operating supermarkets, running trains, and providing healthcare and childcare, our society and economy grind to a halt. The Build Back Better Act is vital federal legislation that recognizes that infrastructure is more than just roads and bridges – infrastructure includes the key services and workforces that we all rely on to live our everyday lives. The Act will make many vital investments into the most valuable resource our country has – its people. These investments span areas of our society that have long been neglected, such as childcare, and will greatly impact and improve the lives of women and families.
We know that the economic ramifications for women as a result of the pandemic were massive. Job loss, housing insecurity, child care expenses and healthcare costs are just a few areas where women suffered most. Job loss in particular among women increased by more than 20%, as women are more likely to work service-based jobs and to be primary caregivers.
Here’s What the Build Back Better Act will Do:
1. Provide universal pre-k and lower child care costs
For families who apply, the plan includes universal pre-k for ages 3 and 4, and child care, up to age 5. The goal is to keep childcare costs at or below 7% of families income. This child care funding would dramatically reduce costs for women and families, as childcare costs amount to a major percentage of total income. Single parent households spend roughly 34% of their income on childcare annually.
2. Increase access to affordable housing
Access to affordable, safe housing has reached an all time low, leaving many families unable to meet their most basic needs. With this plan, funding would be allocated for the construction and rehabilitation of more than 500,000 homes for home buyers, and one million new rental units.
3. Increase tax cuts for families with children
This bill proposes expanding the Child Tax Credit by making the benefits extended to working families during the pandemic permanent. Eligible families would receive up to $300 per month per child, depending on family income and the age of the child. This credit could drastically improve the lives of more than 66 million children, especially those in marginalized communities. Families would benefit from the ability to cover the costs of food, clothing, rent, or college savings for their children.
4. Expand paid family and medical leave
The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world without a federal policy mandating paid parental leave. In addition to paid parental leave, this bill would allocate paid sick time for illness, family member/guardianship care, military deployment, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and bereavement. For parental and medical leave, individuals would receive 12 weeks of paid leave.
5. Make higher education accessible
The Build Back Better Act also addresses disparities in our educational system, creating more opportunities for low income students to receive higher education. Expansion of the Pell Grant would help to decrease student loan debt and open opportunities for those who historically have been denied higher education. According to The Education Trust, this bill would be especially impactful for women of color as black women are 15% less likely to attain a college degree when compared to white women.
We must demand our Senators fight to preserve the benefits that will most impact women and families. Already, parts of the proposed legislation are in jeopardy due to costs. New York advocates have an ambitious agenda to expand child care and invest in working families across our state, and we will need the Build Back Better Act to accomplish these goals. Let’s ensure that prioritizing women is not derailed.