By: The White House Gender Policy Council
As we mark Mother’s Day, more than a year has now passed since a once-in-a-century public health crisis, a once-in-a-generation economic crisis, and an ongoing caregiving crisis conspired to place an unprecedented burden on millions of moms — and their families— across the country.
In a year of extraordinary challenges, mothers have done what they ordinarily do – care for their families, communities and our nation. When COVID-19 threw daily life off of its axis, it was often America’s moms who were forced to make difficult decisions for the well-being of their families. Too many struggled as the economy hit hardest in female-dominated industries, while many other mothers have continued working essential jobs in difficult conditions — on farms and in factories; in grocery stores and restaurants; in laboratories and hospitals; and in so many other places on the front lines.
Far too many mothers have helped shepherd us through the crisis without the critical support they and their families need, like affordable child care, paid family and medical leave, and flexible and predictable schedules. Over the past year, many mothers have taken on the full-time jobs of educator and care provider when our schools and care facilities were closed. Often, that has meant sacrificing their own jobs, work hours, or educational pursuits. And for mothers who are part of the care workforce themselves — disproportionately women of color and immigrant women — the burden has only increased, even as they continue to hold families and communities together in an economy that routinely undervalues, underpays, and neglects them.
Despite the progress our nation has made over the last three months, there remain two million fewer women in the workforce than there were before the pandemic struck. Thirty years of progress in women’s labor force participation has been eroded; millions of moms still don’t have the realistic option of returning to the workforce due to child care and other caregiving responsibilities. The pandemic has exacerbated this reality, but it isn’t new — a chronic lack of investment in our caregiving infrastructure through the years has undermined women’s economic security, particularly for women of color and those who work in lower-paying jobs. To honor America’s moms this Mother’s Day, we must recognize that it’s not enough for us simply to return to the status quo. We need to build back better by building an economy that values the dignity, labor, and choices of every mom.
Together, the American Rescue Plan, American Jobs Plan, and American Families Plan offer the critical relief and support that mothers and families need.
The American Rescue Plan — signed into law in March — delivers for moms. It provides resources to get vaccines in arms and children safely back in school and child care — which helps moms kept out of the workforce this past year to get back on the job. It gives Americans direct relief, including $1,400 per-person checks to 85% of American households. It also boosts funding for programs to protect survivors of gender-based violence, and expands housing and food assistance. Perhaps most impactfully of all, it expands one of the most important middle-class tax cuts we have — the child tax credit — putting up to $3,000 per child six and older and, $3,600 per child under six into the pockets of moms and dads. That provision alone is the primary reason why the American Rescue Plan is projected to cut child poverty in half this year; thanks to this landmark law, poverty levels are expected to fall by nearly 55% for Black children, and by nearly 53% for Hispanic children.
The American Rescue Plan also addresses head-on the child care challenges that have contributed to the significant reduction in women’s labor force participation. It expands support for hard-hit childcare providers and helps families struggling to afford care for their children. It also reduces health care costs for millions of women who buy coverage through the Marketplace, saving families an average of $600 per person per year on their premiums. The law includes additional Medicaid funding for home and community-based services, improving the quality of caregiving jobs and expanding access to services for aging parents, children, and family members with disabilities. It also makes it easier for states to expand Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months, ensuring that more new moms can stay healthy and keep the peace of mind that health coverage provides.
The American Jobs Plan will build on that foundation to create an economy that brings everyone along. This proposed legislation would strengthen our families, our communities, and our nation by making bold and necessary investments in America itself. It would put millions of Americans to work in good-paying jobs — rebuilding not only our roads, highways, and bridges, but also modernizing our schools, upgrading our child care centers, and investing in a robust care infrastructure. For example, it includes a $400 billion investment toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities. The plan would deliver high-speed internet to every American home — and replace every lead service pipe in America, so kids in up to 10 million homes and 400,000 schools and child care centers can turn on a faucet and not worry about drinking polluted water. To ensure that the economy is built on a foundation of equity, the American Jobs Plan would also strengthen the workforce pipeline for more women and communities of color to access these in-demand jobs. This includes ensuring jobs with fair and equal pay, safe and healthy workplaces, and workplaces free from racial, gender, and other forms of discrimination and harassment.
The American Families Plan will continue to build the economy by making a once-in-a-generation investment in our families. It would invest $1 trillion to help cover basic expenses that families need and care about most — making child care and higher education more affordable, lowering the cost of health care over the long term, and continuing to reduce child poverty and put money in parents’ pockets by extending the historic expansion of the child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan. And because 12 years of public education is often no longer enough to compete in the 21st century economy, the American Families Plan would also provide an additional four years of free education to every student in America. On the front end, that would include universal, quality preschool for all three- and four-year-olds in the nation — which we know provides benefits throughout their lives. On the back end, it would include two years of free community college — so every high school graduate can train for a good job in the industries of the future. In addition, this plan would ensure that low- and middle-income families spend no more than seven percent of their income on child care, and would create a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program.
The American Families Plan would also invest $3 billion to improve maternal health. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated longstanding disparities in health. Among those disparities are our country’s unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, which disproportionately impact Black and Native American mothers and families. And, this historic plan would provide critical nutrition assistance — $45 billion in funding — to families who need it most by expanding access to healthy food to our nation’s students, both during the school day and over the summer months.
Like the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan are essential to meeting the moment for mothers — they are critical investments in working families that can be paid for without adding a dollar to our debt. When we invest in moms, we expand the possibilities for every family, every community, and for our entire nation. On this Mother’s Day, and every day, we can honor moms across the country by working to build an economy that works for them — and for all of us.