Families Need Relief—Is Help Finally On the Way?
It's been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and parents, especially moms, have been hit hard. From disproportionately dropping out of the labor force to struggling to juggle child care at home, parents have faced challenges with little relief throughout the pandemic. As a mom of three young kids myself, I am no stranger to these challenges. But what is needed to bring about change?
I'm also a longtime political strategist and I have asked questions like these over the past four seasons of my podcast, Your Political Playlist. I have sat down with experts—all women—on child care, the economy, health care, and more, to better understand these issues. Now, advocates and policymakers are calling for change. In recent months, the conversation has grown around how to alleviate some of the burdens parents, and particularly moms, are facing.
Last month, Congress passed the largest relief package to date, providing funding for everything from direct stimulus payments to vaccination efforts. But while the bill provided some relief for parents, advocates are arguing more must be done. From Biden's American Jobs Plan to the Marshall Plan for Moms to Time's Up call for a care economy, there are a lot of policy ideas out there for providing relief for moms. But what do they actually do, and how would they impact your family?
Federal Relief for Families
The newly-proposed American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion infrastructure package, builds on the initial assistance provided in the COVID relief bill. Biden's proposal includes money to put parents back to work by adding 2.7 million jobs to the economy. It would also make historic investments in essentials for families, like safe schools, clean water, and affordable housing.
The plan also includes funding to revitalize and expand our nation's child care economy, ensuring that all parents have access to safe and affordable child care.
The Marshall Plan for Moms
Reshma Saujani, the CEO of Girls Who Code, proposed the Marshall Plan for Moms aimed at paying moms for their unpaid, unseen labor. The plan would include direct payments to moms for their labor at home, legislation for paid leave and pay equity, affordable child care, retraining programs for moms to be equipped for jobs for the future, and steps to reopen schools safely.
When I talked with Saujani on my podcast, she emphasized the effects of the pandemic on mothers: "Moms are getting crushed."
She also explained why this plan is so critical to increasing equity in our economy and ensuring moms can have children without facing penalties in the labor force. She told me, "I wrote the Marshall Plan for Moms as a vision of what I and the moms in my life and in our Girls Who Code community would need to get back to normal. Which is some cash and some support, so we can pay that mortgage, put food on the table, do what we need to do to support our families. Paid leave and affordable child care ... and finally, retraining. So many women found themselves in jobs that just weren't pandemic-proof and lost jobs that aren't coming back."
The proposal has gained widespread support, with 50 prominent women taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times to urge the Biden administration to champion the plan, too. The plan also now has Congress's attention: Congresswoman Grace Meng has introduced H. Res. 121 declaring the need for a Marshall Plan for Moms.
Criticism of the Marshall Plan for Moms
The rollout of the Marshall Plan for Moms has not been without criticism, however. Samantha Ettus and Amy Nelson, co-hosts of What's Her Story With Sam & Amy, published an op-ed in Newsweek opposing the plan, especially its exclusive focus on moms.
They argue that paying women for labor at home would actually increase gender inequities by excluding men, who should also be taking on child care and home responsibilities. Instead, they argue for policies—such as family leave—to be inclusive of all parents, pushing back against typical gender stereotypes. They also propose monthly stimulus checks and child care stipends to help moms get back into the workforce.
Time's Up's Call for a Care Economy
In a broader effort to treat care as infrastructure, Time's Up launched Care Can't Wait. The campaign brings together a coalition of caregiving advocacy groups and dedicates $20 million to ensure the Biden administration and Congress properly invest in care economy infrastructure.
The campaign brings together many of the voices advocating for better child care and more opportunities for women who were forced to leave the workforce due to the pandemic. In contrast to the Marshall Plan for Moms, Care Can't Wait calls for investing in the entirety of the care economy, from paid family and medical leave, home and community-based services, and services for people with disabilities and aging adults.
For any of these policy ideas to come to life, members of Congress will need to introduce legislation and gain majority support in the House and Senate. To add your support for the Marshall Plan for Moms, you can sign their petition here or call your member of Congress.
Be sure to listen to Emily Tisch Sussman's full conversation with Reshma Saujani on Your Political Playlist. For more conversations with women at the seat of power and activism about policy that affects you and your family, follow @YourPoliticalPlaylist on Instagram, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.