As Democrats demand new rights programs to improve the affordability of American child care, Republicans are launching alternative solutions with divergent mechanisms for parental assistance.
In April of last year, Republican Senator from Missouri Josh Hawley proposed the Parents Tax Credit, offering families with children under 13 $6,000 in assistance to single parents and $12,000 to married parents. Last month, however, two Republican senators instead proposed expanding eligibility for pre-existing grants under the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
“Democrats’ child care proposals would take a wrecking ball for our child care system and replace it with a one-size-fits-all approach that would limit families’ options,” said GOP Sen. Tim Scott of Carolina. of the South in a press release. on the Block Grants Reauthorization Act 2022. “I believe there is a better solution. This bill enhances a program that has already helped families afford a variety of options to care for the most important people in their lives: their children.
The current program has been the primary child care support mechanism for low-income families for 30 years. Scott’s proposal, presented with Republican North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and seven original co-sponsors, builds on that program by loosening eligibility restrictions to include the middle class. It expands family eligibility for thousands of dollars in grants to those earning 150% of their state’s median income.
In a joint editorial for Deseret, Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, and Jenet Jacob Erickson of Brigham Young University criticized the Burr-Scott bill for apparently emphasizing the working parents, which discourages a parent from staying home to care for their children.
“The problem is that this bill would end up directing thousands of dollars in child care subsidies to middle and working class families with two working parents and offer nothing to similar families. who have made a considerable financial sacrifice to have a parent. at home,” they wrote, describing research on the benefits of stay-at-home parenting. “By seeking to expand eligibility for child care subsidies to the middle class without including any subsidies for stay-at-home parents, the Republican proposal could push hundreds of thousands of children into institutional child care.”
Wilcox and Erickson cited a study in Quebec, Canada, where the government‘s push for childcare left children more likely to have “poorer health, lower life satisfaction, and lower crime rates. higher later in life”.
Another study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, they wrote, “found that long hours spent in child care for young children, beginning in infancy, were associated with socio-emotional outcomes. negative for children.
The Republicans behind the Burr-Scott proposal took issue with the premise of the couple’s criticism, pointing to text in the proposal that explicitly offers subsidy eligibility to two-parent households where at least one meets work requirements. A family is still eligible for a child care subsidy “if that provider’s spouse is engaged in an eligible activity”.
In an email to The Federalist, Wilcox called the bill discriminatory for parents who chose to raise their children at home as opposed to daycare by offering no benefits to homebound children.
“The Scott-Burr Plan discriminates against working-class and middle-class families with stay-at-home parents who have made the choice to care for their young children entirely at home,” Wilcox wrote. , who also called the legislative text unclear. “It would be helpful if Republicans clarified in the [Child Care and Development Block Grant] bill that two-parent families with a stay-at-home parent and a worker are eligible for a CCDBG voucher. Such a voucher could be used for preschool, for example.
Redeeming such a voucher, however, would still mean the children are being cared for outside the home.
A senior GOP aide to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, however, said those parents would still receive a voucher.
“The parent can then use that money for whatever they want. There is no requirement to submit receipts to the government as to how the money is spent. So a parent could use it to pay for child care, he could use it to pay for preschool, he could use it to pay for books or whatever,” the aide said. “So there is no lack of clarity here. We’re happy to consider further improvements to make it MORE clear, but it’s inaccurate to say that our language doesn’t do what we all agree the language should do.
Wilcox celebrated the bill’s provisions allowing vouchers to be spent at a wide range of daycares.
“What I like about the Scott-Burr plan is that it emphasizes the importance of giving parents choice about where to send their child when it comes to childcare or preschool” , said Wilcox. “In particular, it protects the right of parents to send their children to a religious nursery school, for example.”
Patrick Brown, a member of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy who previously served as a senior policy adviser to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, also welcomed the expansion of the Parental Choice Bill in terms of eligible child care. to the use of vouchers, including faith-based, home and community organizations.
“At the end of the day, we should be expanding parenting choices,” Brown told The Federalist, adding that her main issue with the bill was the generosity of the payments. “One hundred and fifty percent of the median state income in some states is six figures, and I don’t think it makes sense for the government, certainly not for Republicans, to cap the child care co-payment numbers. children to 7% for this population as this bill would do.
Brown said he was less concerned about potential discrimination in benefits from two-parent households, as Wilcox raised, citing that 80% of children who currently receive Child Care and Development Block Grant funds come from already from single-parent households.
“The logic of providing support to low-income single parents makes sense to me, but once you start to hit the middle class, that’s when it starts to fall apart,” he said.
Scott’s office defended the bill as a proposal narrowly tailored to Democrats’ demands for a new rights agenda.
“The [Child Care and Development Block Grant] is a long-standing and widely successful solution to giving American parents the support and flexibility they need to care for their children. The bill Sen. Scott is leading builds on the program while ensuring it remains relevant to those who need it most, rather than the Democratic approach of making taxpayers foot the bill. ‘a massive, ineffective, government-run childcare system,’ a spokesperson said. told the Federalist. “As Conservatives, we believe that state and local leaders, not the federal bureaucracy, best understand the needs of their communities, and to that end, this legislation includes a provision that empowers states to develop terms of eligibility that best meet the needs of families in those states.
An aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the bill’s original co-sponsors, pointed to the proposal’s flexibility.
“The Democrats’ Build Back Better plan would have pushed families into government-controlled centers while eliminating this popular voucher program. Crucially, this needs-based program doesn’t push people into child care who would otherwise stay at home,” the Federalist aide told. “Instead, it allows parents to afford the best childcare for their children while they work to support their families. The bill also removes regulatory barriers to opening new home child care centers in rural areas, increasing options for families.
Tristan Justice is the Western correspondent for The Federalist. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and The Daily Signal. His work has also been featured in Real Clear Politics and Fox News. Tristan is a graduate of George Washington University where he majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @JusticeTristan or contact him at [email protected]