I remember sitting down with my mom doing my math homework almost every night. One night I was tasked with creating a budget for a family of four -- I remember my mom being elated that I was learning the importance of budgeting from such a young age. I’ll admit at first the purpose was a little lost on me. But as we plugged in the income, and subtracted monthly costs like food, rent, the basics, the added cost of child care was a nut the two of us couldn’t crack alone.
Now more than ever do we need to address major policy issues that have been damaging to women and families for far too long. More mothers are working today than any other time in our history; three-quarters of moms are now actively in the workforce. Yet, motherhood has become the greatest predictor of inequality in this country. While most women without children make 90 cents to a man’s dollar, mothers make only 73 cents, single mothers make about 60 cents and mothers of color earn as little as 54 cents to a man’s dollar.
More moms in the workforce means a greater need for child care. At the same time, we better understand brain science and the crucial role of the first years five years in setting the foundation for success in school and life. Access to affordable, high-quality child care is not only essential for families but for us all.
Yet the cost of child care now exceeds that of college tuition in most states. And the cost of child care disproportionately affects low-income families as they are forced to spend a greater percentage of their income on child care. Household incomes between 100 and 200% of the federal poverty line spending 18% of their income on child care and families at or below the poverty line spending upwards of 30% of their income on child care alone!
We’ve got a math problem here, folks. Mothers are overwhelmingly playing a role in the workforce, but are making significantly less than their male and non-mother female counterparts, and must pay for child care at rates that soar above the cost of college tuition.
We rely on moms as valuable members of our workforce contributing to our economic growth and vitality while also needing them to ensure our littlest learners are cared for to grow up to be healthy, contributing members of society.
Luckily, help may be on the way!
Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) has introduced the Child CARE Act as part of an economic agenda for women and families, “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.” Rep. Edwards and the bill’s co-sponsors understand that women play a critical role in our economy and the success of our country relies on the economic security of women (and by extension, families).
This act makes two important changes to put more money back in the pockets of moms and families. First, it makes the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) refundable -- so even if you don’t have any federal income tax liability, you can still receive the tax credit for what you pay for child and dependent care. Second, it indexes the CDCTC to inflation -- which is a lot of jargon to say that the tax credit would continue to provide an adequate level of financial relief for child care when the economy causes salaries and the price of goods to rise. These two actions would support access to high-quality child care and keep essentials like food on the table for our littlest learners.
It’s time to put families first and update the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to ensure all families can provide and thrive. When women succeed, America succeeds.