11:18 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, everyone. I’m looking at you on this big screen. It’s so good to see all you — this incredible, phenomenal group of women leaders and national leaders. So thank you all for joining us and for being together for this conversation this afternoon.
It is an honor to be here with Senator Patty Murray, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; Congresswoman DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee; my dear friend, Senator Cortez Masto; my dear friend, Congresswoman Lee; and all of the leaders from our nation’s most important organizations on gender equity.
And I don’t need to tell you all: Time and again, women and families across the nation have benefited from your leadership. And without you — each one of you — we will not be able to get the American Rescue Plan across the finish line now, which is the point of our discussion today.
In one year, the pandemic has put decades of the progress we’ve collectively made for women workers at risk. There are three main reasons for this, as we all know. First: job loss. About 2.5 million women have dropped out or have been forced out of the workforce during the pandemic. Many work in lower-wage jobs — jobs that have been undervalued for far too long and underpaid for far too long.
Second, small businesses are closing. Last February,
around 5 million women were business owners. And two months later, by April, one in four had closed their doors.
So, my first week in office, I spoke with a group of small-business owners, many of whom are women. And they all talked about how tough it is right now to keep their businesses up and running while balancing all of their responsibilities at home. In fact, one woman, Caitlin James, held her newborn throughout our conversation — which was by Zoom, because of course she was juggling all of the demands that are her daily struggle.
Which brings me to the childcare crisis, because this childcare crisis is a double-edged sword. As homes have become makeshift classrooms, many working women have been forced to cut their hours or leave their jobs entirely. And as childcare centers have closed, childcare providers, many of whom are women, have lost their jobs. At the beginning of the pandemic, the childcare sector alone lost nearly 400,000 jobs. Half of those jobs have yet to return.
And I know that this is personal for me; this is personal for everyone here. Many of you are working mothers. Many of you are caring for your own parents, sandwiched between two generations. And all of you are a voice of women who have been severely impacted by the pandemic, which is why you know it has created a perfect storm for women.
And the longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to bring these millions of women back into the workforce. And let me be clear, we all know this: Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully.
So I believe — I think we all believe this is a national emergency. Women leaving the workforce in these numbers — it’s a national emergency and it demands a national solution.
So that brings me to the American Rescue Plan, which I know you all are familiar with, you have read, you have helped inform. And we do believe that the American Rescue Plan is a very big part of the solution to this issue, and — in many ways.
One, it will get immediate relief to women workers, including $1,400 checks to those who need it and at least $3,000 in tax credits to parents for each of their children. And the beauty of the significance of this is, by doing that, we will lift up nearly half of the children who are living in poverty in our country.
It will also provide funding — the American Rescue Plan will also provide funding to help schools safely reopen and make a big investment in childcare to help providers keep their doors open. And it will get America vaccinated. So, simply put, the American Rescue Plan will help get women back to work.
And I’m so grateful for the members of Congress who are championing the key provisions of this bill. And you know that we — we’re so pleased and excited to work with you. And of course, today is about hearing from you and about how the American Rescue Plan speaks to the needs of the women that you represent and how you are helping those women tell their senators and representatives — of course, the four that we have here don’t need to be told; they’re leading the charge — but how you are helping the women who have so much at stake to share their stories with their member of Congress, telling them what is at stake for their families.
Because we need your help. We got to get this bill signed into law. Each day of this pandemic is a very long day for folks who have lost their jobs, for the children who are not able to go to school, for the parents who are juggling all of the interests that are important about sustaining and protecting their families.
So, with that, it is my pleasure to introduce my friend and former colleague — as she is well known, a mom in tennis shoes who runs hard in the Senate — (laughs) — our dear friend, Senator Patty Murray, the chair of the Senate HELP Committee.
(The roundtable discussion begins.)
END 11:24 A.M. EST