- Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen credits “excellent” childcare for her professional success.
- She urged Congress to invest in affordable childcare in the $3.5 trillion social spending bill.
- The Treasury released a report on Wednesday detailing the lack of accessible childcare for parents.
Janet Yellen is the first female Treasury Secretary of the US, but she said it might not have been possible without the childcare made available to her after giving birth to her son four decades ago.
“Looking back, I’m not sure I would be here, in this job today, if I didn’t have an excellent babysitter 40 years ago,” Yellen said during remarks on Wednesday on shortages in the childcare system.
Yellen joined Vice President Kamala Harris at the Treasury Department in urging for increased investments in childcare, and she said that while she was lucky to have given her son great childcare, it is certainly not the norm for most families today. The Treasury released a report on Wednesday that found parents need childcare at a time when they can least afford it — right when they give birth — and there is currently no funding mechanism, stressing the need for reform.
“For the vast majority of Americans, the child care industry works in precisely the opposite way it worked for us, which is to say it doesn’t work at all: Those who provide child care aren’t paid well, and many who need it, can’t afford it,” Yellen said.
House Democrats recently unveiled their plan to invest $761 billion to make childcare more affordable as part of their social spending bill, which included a universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds and investments to ensure children do not go hungry. It also includes a cap on families’ spending on childcare at 7% of income so anyone who wants care can afford it, regardless of how much money they make.
Insider reported on Tuesday that 110 economists echoed Yellen’s calls in a letter stressing the importance of affordable childcare in Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social spending bill. Betsey Stevenson, a top economist under Obama and one of the letter’ signatories, told Insider in an interview that the “fundamental flaw” in childcare is the lack of investment.
“What we have done is create a nation of kids who are underinvested in, and that feeds into not just what our potential is as an economy, but it also feeds into inequality,” Stevenson said.
Democrats are in the process of debating elements of the reconciliation bill, including an expanded $300 monthly child tax credit, but where benefits for children and families stand remain uncertain given hesitation from centrist lawmakers, like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who wants a work requirement for the benefits.
But Yellen said during her remarks it’s “past time that we treat child care as what it is – an element whose contribution to economic growth is as essential as infrastructure or energy.”