Cantwell, Murray Introduce Bill to Help Families Pay for Child Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the chair of the Senate education committee, and Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and more than 25 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in introducing a bill to expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to help families pay for the costs of child care. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit Act would also help increase employment rates and the earnings of parents, as well as reduce child poverty. According to the National Women’s Law Center, low income families spend almost one-third of their income on child care. A robust and fully refundable Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit will support working parents, reduce child poverty and could increase net employment by more than 500,000 jobs, according to analysis from the National Academies of Sciences. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has further illustrated the critical need to help families obtain quality and affordable child care. The Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve found COVID-19 has disrupted child care arrangements for millions of parents; one in five working-age adults cited child care as a reason they were not working, with disproportional impacts falling on women. Access to safe, affordable child care is essential to our economic infrastructure and our nation’s economic recovery.

“There are too many middle-class families struggling to make ends meet and simply not enough quality, affordable child care options,” said Senator Cantwell. “We face a huge and growing national demand. I am proud to cosponsor this bill and will continue to fight on the side of working families."

“Families are facing unprecedented struggles in getting quality child care—and this bill will put more money in their pockets so they can afford the child care they need,” said Senator Murray. “I’ll keep fighting to support working families and the child care sector during this crisis, make access to affordable, quality child care a reality for every family, and guarantee livable wages for early educators.”

The Child Care and Dependent Credit Enhancement Act would:

  • Make the full Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit available to most working families: This bill would make the full credit available to families with income under $125,000. The current phase-down of the credit begins at $15,000 of income;
  • Put more money into a family’s pocket: The bill increases the maximum credit from $1,050 to $4,000 per child (age 0-13), up to $8,000;
  • Ensure lower income families see a benefit: The bill would make the credit fully refundable to make sure those with the greatest need see a benefit;
  • Retain the value over time: The bill would index benefits to inflation to ensure they keep up with ever-growing costs; and
  • The credit fully phases out for incomes above $440,000 a year.

Senator Murray, one of the lead sponsors of the bill and a former preschool teacher, has long been a champion of child care and was instrumental in securing $3.5 billion for child care nationwide in the CARES Act, $10 billion in the COVID relief package passed in December, and $5.91 billion in the FY21 spending bill. Throughout the pandemic, Senator Murray has stressed the importance of child care in order to help working families get back to work and help build back a more fair economy. In June, she introduced the Child Care is Essential Act, to help keep child care providers in businesses and address the child care crisis exacerbated by coronavirus. In 2019, she also introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, a comprehensive child care and early learning bill to expand access to quality, affordable child care for working families, increase the quality and supply of child care across the nation, and ensure livable wages for early childhood educators. The bill is part of President Biden’s platform.

Senator Cantwell has been a steadfast champion for issues affecting working families, including child care. She helped introduce similar legislation to expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit last Congress, and is a cosponsor of Murray’s Child Care for Working Families Act.

The full text of the bill is available here.