Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by First Lady Jill Biden at the University of Minnesota
I teach writing at a community college. And one day, I had a student come in with her 4-year-old. The moment I locked eyes with my student, I could see her distress, and I knew exactly what happened: Her babysitter had fallen through but she couldn’t afford to miss the class. She set up her son with a box of crayons and some paper in the corner of the room, and I tried to give her a smile when I saw her looking at him nervously—praying he’d make it through.
Moms just do what we have to do, don’t we? If the carefully-planned matrix of work, and school, and drop-offs and pick-ups falls apart, you just figure it out.
When Joe took office one year ago, schools were shuttered. After heroic efforts to try to stay open, far too many child care providers were forced to close or lay off early educators. And millions of women had left the workforce.
Imagine that mom who went to drop off her children before work one morning and the doors were closed. Or who didn’t bring them in at all because she couldn’t risk her family getting sick. There was no vacation time to make up for missed work. There was no grandma to stay home with the kids. She needed that job. But she needed to take care of her children more.
There was no choice—so she walked away. She kept her family safe—but it cost her something too. Security. Pride. A sense of purpose.
For millions of parents, the situation was dire and urgent. That’s why Joe made a major investment in child care through the American Rescue Plan.
We helped states like Minnesota safely keep open child care centers, and family child care providers—and boost pay for their workers. We supported high-quality providers that enrich children’s lives. And we helped make them more affordable.
Tim, you understand that child care is not only critical to families, it’s critical to our businesses and economy. Joe and I are grateful for your leadership—and for the friendship of you and Gwen. And I’m excited to hear more today about what you’ve done here in Minnesota to help families recover from the uncertainty and losses of the pandemic.
Still, there’s a lot more to do. The challenges families face didn’t start with COVID-19. And we need fundamental changes if we hope to build back better than before.
That’s why Joe believes in investing in high-quality, affordable child care. It’s why he wants to lower costs for families. It’s why he cares so much about making preschool universal for all 3- and 4-year-olds. And so do I.
I’ve never taught early education, but I’ve seen what a difference it makes in my community college classes. When kids have a strong start, it helps them learn and succeed for the rest of their lives. And it gives parents another safe, loving place to send their kids while they work.
For the last few years, in every city I visited and at nearly every event—whether we were there to talk about military spouses, or vaccinations, or community colleges—people have told me that one of their biggest challenges is child care.
Families like yours need support. The President knows that and he’s working to make that support a reality.
Reliable, affordable, quality, child care and universal preschool would profoundly change people’s lives. And it is within our reach. That’s what we’re here to talk about today.
Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Secretary Becerra, you’ve worked for years to improve health care in America—and now, you’ve become a true champion for Joe’s child care goals. Thank you for your leadership.