Obama Administration Initiatives Fact Sheet
The following outlines the major initiatives that the Obama Administration has pursued to assist Americans in meeting work and family responsibilities. This summary is also available as a downloadable PDF fact sheet to use as a resource at your event.
Issues like equal pay, family leave, child care and others are not just women’s issues; they are family issues and economic issues. Our progress in these areas is an important measure of whether we are truly fulfilling the promise of our democracy for all our people.
-- President Obama, on the creation of the White House Council on Women and Girls
Obama Administration Initiatives to Help Americans Meet Work and Family Responsibilities
For the majority of American families, it is no longer the case that one parent is the breadwinner while the other is the caregiver. Women now make up nearly half of all workers on U.S. payrolls, and men and women are more evenly sharing care-giving responsibilities. The economic stability of American families depends in part on policies that help them balance work and care-giving obligations. These policies include workplace flexibility and access to paid leave; affordable, quality child care and elder care; and enforcing equal pay laws.
Promoting Workplace Flexibility and Access to Paid Leave
Supporting Paid Sick Leave. Approximately 40 percent of private-sector employees work at a company that does not offer sick pay for their own illness or injury. And low- and middle-income workers are much less likely to be offered paid sick leave than highly paid workers. Last fall, the Administration announced its support for the Healthy Families Act. This legislation would allow millions of working Americans to earn up to 7 days per year of paid sick time, which they could use to care for themselves or for a sick family member.
Helping States Establish Paid Leave Funds. Too many workers must make the painful choice between caring for their families and a paycheck they desperately need. Workers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off without losing their jobs, but many cannot afford to lose income. A handful of states have enacted policies to offer paid family leave, but more should have the chance. The President’s Budget proposes a $50 million State Paid Leave Fund at the Department of Labor that will provide competitive grants to help cover start-up costs for states that choose to launch paid leave programs.
Building the Knowledge Base about Work-Family Policies. The Department of Labor is currently exploring options for improving the collection of data around issues like parental leave, child care responsibilities, usage of family leave insurance programs, and other topics related to the intersection of work and family responsibilities. The President’s Budget provides additional funding to the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor to support this effort.
Parental Leave for Federal Employees. While federal workers have access to paid sick leave and vacation time, there is a notable gap in federal benefits, and that is paid parental leave. Federal employees with a newborn baby, or who choose to adopt or foster a child, have no paid leave that they can access specifically to meet those responsibilities. This can hamper federal agencies’ ability to recruit talented young people to join public service. When legislation passed the House in 2009, the Administration indicated support for a legislative remedy, stating: “Being able to spend time at home with a new child is a critical part of building a strong family.… The federal government should reflect its commitment to these core values by helping federal employees to care for their families as well as serve the public. Providing paid parental leave has been successfully employed by a number of private-sector employers, and can help to make job opportunities accessible to more workers.”
Modernizing the Family and Medical Leave Act. The landmark Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides access to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. However, more than 40 percent of workers are in firms that are not covered by the Act, and millions more work at businesses covered by the Act but do not qualify for its protections. Last fall, the President signed legislation that made it possible for flight attendants and crewmembers to access FMLA and expanded coverage for military families. The White House Task Force on the Middle Class has recommended exploring opportunities to expand access to FMLA to more workers.
Supporting Quality, Affordable Child Care and Elder Care
Helping Families with Child Care Costs. Since 2000, child care costs have grown significantly faster than inflation or family incomes. The President’s Budget proposes a series of investments to help families afford the cost of quality child care, including:
- Doubling the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit for middle-class families making under $85,000 a year by increasing their credit rate from 20% to 35% of child care expenses. Nearly all eligible families making under $115,000 would see a larger credit.
- Building on historic increases in Head Start and child care provided in the Recovery Act. The President’s Budget provides an additional $989 million for Head Start and Early Head Start to continue to serve 64,000 additional children and families funded in the Recovery Act. The Budget also provides an additional $1.6 billion for the Child Care and Development Fund, which would create 235,000 child care slots and is the largest one-year increase in 20 years.
- Supporting child care for military families. The President’s Budget provides an additional $87 million to expand the availability of affordable, high-quality child care services at over 800 child development centers both in the U.S. and overseas.
Supporting Families Who Care for Aging Relatives and Family Members with Disabilities. An estimated 65 million Americans provide unpaid care to seniors or people with disabilities. Many of these caregivers are part of the “sandwich generation”— those who care for children and aging parents at the same time. The President’s Budget includes $102.5 million for the Administration on Aging’s Caregiver Initiative, to help caregivers better manage their multiple responsibilities and so that seniors can live in the community for as long as possible. This includes $52.5 million in funding for caregiver support programs that provide temporary respite care, counseling, training, and referrals to critical services. The extra funding will allow nearly 200,000 additional caregivers to be served and 3 million more hours of respite care to be provided. It also includes $50 million for programs that provide transportation help, adult day care, and in-home services, such as aides to help seniors bathe and cook, help which eases the burden for family members and helps seniors stay in their homes.
Access to Equal Pay
Enhancing Enforcement of Equal Pay Laws. With more women in the labor force than ever, the earnings of women are essential to the economic well-being of American families. But too often, women are paid less than men for doing the same job. The first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restores basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. Building on this commitment to equal pay for equal work, the President’s budget includes an $18 million increase for the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which enforces equal pay laws. The Budget also provides almost $2 million to the Department of Labor for research and dissemination of information on income and job disparities—an increase of nearly 300 percent over 2010. And in his State of the Union Address, the President announced the creation of an Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, to improve the coordination among federal agencies to ensure that equal pay laws are vigorously enforced throughout the country.