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STATEMENT: The American Families Plan Would Boost Economic Growth, Create Jobs, and Confront America’s Caregiving Crisis

Washington, D.C. — Today, President Joseph Biden unveiled the American Families Plan, the second component to the administration’s Build Back Better economic agenda. John Podesta, founder of the Center for American Progress, released the following statement:

The last year has put families—particularly mothers—under enormous strain, but the truth is that a lack of affordable caregiving, health care, and educational options thrust many Americans into crisis well before the pandemic. For decades, while corporations and the richest Americans amassed even greater sums of wealth, this lack of support for America’s human capital undermined our global competitiveness; starved families of opportunity; shortchanged the predominantly women workers and workers of color who provide essential care; and pushed millions out of jobs altogether, costing our country trillions of dollars in lost productivity. While the American Rescue Plan (ARP) is providing essential resources to help families weather the pandemic, President Biden’s unprecedented American Families Plan (AFP) sets a new course for good-paying jobs and strong economic growth that benefits everybody—not just those at the top.

America can no longer be one of the only major industrialized countries in the world without a high-quality, affordable early learning system to serve its youngest children. The AFP would turn the page on the current child care system that serves just 1 in 7 subsidy-eligible children by making infant and toddler child care affordable for all families; establishing a universal preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds; and raising the wages of child care workers who earn an average $12 per hour. It would provide families further relief by making the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults permanent as well as extending the life of the enhanced Child Tax Credit signed into law by President Biden last month.

Similarly, with just 19 percent of workers in America having access to paid leave, we can no longer afford to be the only OECD country without a national paid family and medical leave program. The AFP would guarantee paid leave for all workers and ultimately reflect all the reasons why workers require leave—to care for themselves, a new child, or a family member—so that no worker in America has to choose between their livelihood and caring for themselves or a loved one. But the true promise of paid leave can’t be fully realized without access to quality, affordable health care. The AFP would enhance the Affordable Care Act by boosting the financial assistance available to purchase health insurance. This builds on the unprecedented support for home- and community-based services and long-term care for elderly and disabled Americans proposed by President Biden in the American Jobs Plan.

To make the most of these investments, the AFP would also put Americans on a path to prosperity by investing in the education and training that workers need to fill the jobs of the 21st century without going into debt. As of last year, roughly 2 in 3 jobs in America require training beyond high school, which is why the AFP would build on the work of red and blue states alike to make community college tuition-free nationwide. The plan would also make it easier for students to remain in and finish their degrees by increasing the Pell Grant by $1,400 and covering the cost of tuition for two years at the nation’s HBCUs, MSIs, and tribal colleges. It would also make vital investments to address teacher shortages, particularly among teachers of color, and treat educators like the dignified professionals they are.

This proposal recognizes a fundamental truth: America’s economic growth and competitiveness is inextricably tied to its families’ ability to thrive. It includes popular, long-overdue, and critical reforms to build the economy back stronger and more equitably from the pandemic. After a grueling year for too many families, Congress should move quickly to turn the AFP into law to enhance their economic security and create millions of jobs.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at cseeberger@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6292.