3:55 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. Thank you, Nicholas, for sharing your story and, as you and I discussed backstage, for your courage and for the leadership that you and your wife and your whole family have been providing.
The work that you have been doing reminds us that the work that we have in front of us is important work. It is noble work. It is about supporting working families in America. And this work will make a difference in the lives of all of those working families.
So, it is wonderful to be here at the Treasury Department. And I want to thank you, always, Secretary Janet Yellen and the extraordinary team you have assembled, for welcoming me here today.
In this historic moment, the work each of you do at Treasury could not be more important. You have been working around the clock on everything from regulating global financial markets to implementing the American Rescue Plan. Your work is transforming the lives of everyday Americans and strengthening our entire nation.
So, first of all, I want to thank you, the hardworking, talented team, staff here at the Treasury Department.
Not long after President Joe Biden and I took office, I called the mass exodus of women from the workforce a national emergency. Because that’s what it is: a national emergency.
The pandemic has hit women workers extremely hard and disproportionately. More layoffs in industries in which women are likely to work. More closures of small businesses which women owned. And without childcare, working parents were totally stranded.
Working mothers took on more and more of the responsibility at home, as Nicholas has described in his personal experience. In fact, childcare issues were cited as the reason many working mothers had to quit their jobs during the pandemic.
From day one, as Secretary Yellen can attest, our administration has been hard at work to get women back to work. And I believe this is a fight for our future, because when we are talking about fighting for working families, working women, we are fighting for the children of America. And, by extension, we are fighting for the future of our country.
When women are able to fully participate in our workforce, our families, our communities, and our country is stronger. Consider, for example, the impact on our broader economy. Some estimates suggest that our GDP would be five points higher if women participated in the workforce at the same rate as men.
If we intend to fully recover from the pandemic, if we intend to fully compete on a global scale, we must ensure the full participation of women in the workforce.
And even more than the dollar and cents of it all, this, I would suggest, is about what kind of nation we are — a nation that is stronger when everyone can participate, and weaker when anyone is left out.
Fundamentally, I believe, this is about our responsibility, as a government, to ensure everyone — women and men alike — has the power to determine their own future. This is about giving people options to live a life of dignity. And that includes affordable and accessible options to send their children to high-quality childcare.
Today, the Treasury Department — and the occasion for our gathering — has released a report titled “The Economics of Childcare.”
For so many working people — and for women, in particular — childcare is a prerequisite for being able to work. Childcare is what makes it possible for millions of Americans to work.
And yet, this report confirms what millions of American families know and experience every day: Childcare remains too expensive and out of reach for far too many working families in our country.
This report confirms we need to bring costs down with a significant public investment in our childcare industry.
And this report confirms that, tragically, the United States is falling behind, on a global scale, on this issue of investment in childcare.
In fact, we invest fewer public dollars in early childhood education than almost all other developed countries. We must do better. And President Joe Biden and I are determined to do just that with all of you.
At this very moment, Congress is considering our Build Back Better agenda. Supporting and strengthening working families is one of our highest priorities. Once it passes, our agenda will extend the Child Tax Credit. It will expand paid family leave. And it will lower childcare costs for every working family.
Our agenda could save the average family nearly $15,000 a year in childcare costs — about $1,200 every month. Our agenda will also make universal pre-care — universal preschool a universal reality. Every three- and four-year-old will have access to a high-quality preschool.
By expanding childcare options and lowering childcare costs, we will give working people everywhere the support they need to dream, to do, and to determine their own future.
And I know this from my own life. I learned this at a very young age based on what I witnessed. You see, my mother was a scientist. She was a breast cancer researcher. And she had two goals in her life: to raise her two daughters and end breast cancer.
And every weekday and on many weekends, my mother went to work long hours in the lab. And when she did, my sister and I would walk two doors down — just a couple of feet — to the home of Mrs. Regina Shelton.
Mrs. Shelton ran a childcare center, and she became a second mother to my sister and me. My mother often said that but for Mrs. Shelton, she would not have been able to do the work that she did. She would not have been able to make the contributions that she made in the fight to end breast cancer. She would not have been able to fulfill her ambitions for herself and her two daughters.
All working mothers and working parents deserve the kind of support that my mother found in Mrs. Shelton. Through Build Back Better, that is exactly the kind of support our administration intends to provide.
And with that, I will turn it over to our great Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. (Applause.)
4:04 P.M. EDT