Remarks by the Vice President in a Roundtable Conversation on the Importance of Federal Investment in Childcare at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good morning, everyone. We are very much looking forward to this conversation. And let me just start by thanking each one of you for what you do and for the courage of your stories and telling your stories, which really do represent the stories of so many parents -- the vast majority of parents around our country.
And a lot of the work that we are doing right now -- it's work that the governor has been doing his entire career, the Congresswoman is leading in the United States Congress -- is the work of recognizing the significance of supporting our parents, supporting our children, and understanding that it is about an investment in our collective future.
Governor, I want to thank you for your leadership, for being such a champion on many, many issues. And I could go down the list. I said to you on the tarmac that I think, in these days of so many crises, the true leaders have just been revealed, in terms of having the ability to take on some of the most difficult issues and do it with courage, do it with determination and conviction. And that is the leadership that you have been providing.
On the issue of childcare, the governor was really one of the national leaders around how you chose to use the American Rescue resources, and you put $100 million of those resources into childcare in the state of New Jersey. So, I want to thank you.
Congresswoman Sherrill, your leadership -- I've seen and have known of your work in the halls of the United States Congress, being a tireless advocate for many issues but, in particular, on this issue that we're discussing today.
So, childcare -- you know, our nation, I do believe -- I think we all know -- is strongest when everyone is able to participate. And this is fundamentally what this issue is about as it relates to working parents.
As it relates to working parents, we should support, as a society that says that every person should have a meaningful opportunity to work, that they should have a meaningful opportunity to parent their children, and to participate not only in their community, but in our economy to pursue whatever may be their passions and their dreams, much less the fundamental needs they have to take care of the basic needs of their families. All of these issues are present when we talk about the issue of childcare and the connection between that and a productive workforce.
I don't need to tell the governor that -- that the reality in all states in our nation is that childcare is too expensive. And in almost every state, there are areas where it is not even available, to the point that we have now coined a term "childcare deserts" because of the number of places in our nation where childcare is just not available. It's not accessible, much less affordable.
In New Jersey, the average family spends 15 percent of their income on childcare. One of the issues that the President and I have been working on with the support of Congress is to say, "No one should spend more than 5 to 7 percent of their income on childcare," especially when you look at the other obligations that families have, such as putting food on the table and paying rent.
Nearly half of New Jersey lives in childcare deserts. And we are seeing across the country these numbers. And so, again, I want to thank the governor for addressing this and taking it on -- head on.
GOVERNOR MURPHY: Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: When we look at the issue, as it affects women, there are clear and well-known disparities. We saw that highlighted during the course of the pandemic. In many ways, in the midst of that crisis, there was a certain level of enlightenment about issues some of us have known to be failures and fractures and fissures in our system for a long time, but it became apparent to a whole new group of people. One of them was the accessibility and affordability of childcare, and also, the disproportionate responsibility that women in a family take on when the resources are stretched thin.
Today, there was a report about the jobs number. And we know that since the beginning of the pandemic, 2 million women left the workforce. Two million women left the workforce. And the main reason that many of them did is the unavailability of childcare. And let's be very clear: A working person cannot go to work if they have children if there's no one to take care of their children. It is that basic.
So, this is an ongoing issue, and it is something that we seek to address. But we do see this moment of crisis as a moment of opportunity to elevate this issue and, with leaders like this governor, to actually show what can be done and what it looks like to pass the legislation in the Congress to show what a national standard should be in addition.
And so, I want to thank the leaders here. Our Build Back agenda -- our President Biden's Build Back agenda is about building back better. And on this issue, a large part of that agenda then is not only about affordable and accessible childcare; it's also about acknowledging -- and I know we're going to have this discussion -- what we call the "sandwich generation" -- right? -- parents who are raising their young children and also taking care of their aging parents, and therefore, being in the middle of those two populations of their family that need their support and need care.
So, a big part of the Build Back Better agenda is childcare, and it is also at-home care for our elders, recognizing that that is a significant issue that relates directly to the dignity with which we treat and acknowledge other human beings and the sanctity of -- of their life and our responsibility to treat them with dignity.
And -- and also, our Child Tax Credit is a very important part of the Build Back Better agenda where we believe we will lift almost half of America's children out of poverty.
So, all of that to say that this is long overdue as one of the highest priorities of our public policy. And I do believe we have the leaders at the table who are going to get it done.
And in the larger context, this is also about where we stand in the world. And we are falling behind as a nation, and we need to catch up, and we need to do better.
So, with all of that, I thank you. And, Congresswoman Sherrill, I'll pass the mic over to you. And let's begin our discussion. And then I know we're going to hear from the governor. And then we're looking forward to hearing from these community leaders.
Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President in a Roundtable Conversation on the Importance of Federal Investment in Childcare at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/352899