What President Biden's American Families Plan Means for Your Family
During his first major speech, President Biden announced the American Families Plan. Your Political Podcast host and political strategist, Emily Tisch Sussman, breaks down what it could mean for families.
President Biden joined both the House and Senate to give his first major speech to Congress and to the American public this week, just days before his 100th day in office. During his speech, the president announced the American Families Plan, an ambitious plan that invests $1.8 trillion into American families.
Announcing the proposal, Biden urged for bipartisan support of the plan, saying, "A broad consensus of economists—left, right, center—agree that what I'm proposing will help create millions of jobs and generate historic economic growth."
Child Care Investments
It is no secret child care has come to the forefront of the political conversation because of the strain COVID-19 has put on families. The economy has taken a significant hit as more and more parents, especially women, leave the workforce to care of their children.
"Two million women have dropped out of the workforce during this pandemic, too often because they couldn't get the care they need for their family, their children," President Biden said.
Advocates like Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, have been calling for comprehensive plans to help struggling families. I spoke with her about her Marshall Plan for Moms which includes 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.
To help millions of families, and grow the economy, Biden laid out his plan to implement a sliding scale that bases child care costs on income, ensuring that low- and middle-income families pay no more than 7 percent of their income on child care.
The American Families Plan also proposes an investment in the care workforce—nearly half of whom are women of color. The plan would ensure a $15 minimum wage for staff and provide job-embedded coaching and professional development, along with additional training opportunities.
Research shows quality early education programs improve educational, emotional, and health outcomes for children. But too often, these programs come at too high of a cost to many families. The Biden Administration proposes to partner with states to offer free, high quality, accessible, and inclusive preschool to all 3-and 4-year-olds. Once fully implemented, this would benefit five million children and save the average family $13,000.
Child care and early education are not the only expenses parents worry about. As the cost of getting a college degree continues to rise, getting a postsecondary education seems less and less achievable for many families. President Biden announced a plan to provide two years of free community college to close the growing skills gap and allow students to fill job positions that overwhelmingly require some type of higher education.
"That's why the American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America—starting as early as we can. We add two years of universal high-quality preschool for every 3- and 4- year-old in America. And then we add two years of free community college," said Biden.
Under his $109 billion plan, first-generation college students, those looking to gain a new skill, and DREAMers can earn a degree credential for free.
Biden is also calling for a $46 billion investment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to increase opportunities for underrepresented students. The plan would create a program that provides two years of subsidized tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled in a four-year HBCU, TCU, or MSI.
Due to the pandemic and demands of the household, parents have left the workforce in droves over the past year. Women, in particular, have been forced to leave their jobs, creating billions in lost wages and economic activity. It is clearer than ever that families need support to ensure they can provide for their families, especially in times of crisis. And the United States lags behind other countries in providing this support, as the only industrialized country that does not ensure paid maternity leave.
President Biden proposed a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program. "No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and a loved one—a parent, spouse, or child," the president said.
Within 10 years, the plan would offer 12 weeks of paid parental, family, and personal illness/safe leave, and three days of bereavement leave each year. "The program will ensure workers receive partial wage replacement to take time to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one, deal with a loved one's military deployment, find safety from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence, heal from their own serious illness, or take time to deal with the death of a loved one," according to a White House outline.
Even some elected officials understand this struggle. I interviewed Senator Tammy Duckworth, who recently introduced the PAID Leave Act. As a mother of two and the first sitting senator to give birth while in office, this fight is personal to her. "I had to bring my daughter to DC at 10 days old to be able to vote, so I couldn't even take maternity leave," she said.
Food Economy and Nutrition
More than 50 million people are dealing with food insecurity—or not knowing where their next meal will come from—every day in the United States, disproportionately impacting low-income families and families of color. Biden announced his plan to invest $45 billion to combat food insecurity.
The plan will focus on expanding access to free and reduced meals during the summer, strengthening the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) to provide free meals to more students, and improving nutrition standards of school meals.
When I spoke with Ellen Gustafson on Your Political Playlist, she made it clear that in order to address food insecurities the Biden Administration would have to "be very thoughtful about how food policy plays into our lives."
Tax Credit for Families
Building off of the expanded tax credits from the American Rescue Plan, Biden's new proposal would permanently change the Child Tax Credit to make it fully refundable and would extend the expanded payments through 2025.
The expanded Child Tax Credit aims to cut child poverty in half and would be delivered regularly to allow families to cover essential household expenses. During his speech, Biden signaled he is ready to work with Congress to pass his plan: "This will help more than 65 million children and help cut child poverty in half this year. Together, let's extend the Child Tax Credit, at least through the end of 2025."
The American Families Plan also proposes the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers from the American Rescue Plan remain permanent. The president urged Congress to support this permanent expansion, noting it would benefit millions of essential workers who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic.
When I spoke with Tamara Fucile, previously the executive director for the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, on Your Political Playlist, she predicted Biden's intent to create a permanent plan for these tax credits.
"I think we are going to see a real effort in this next package to make the child tax credit permanent and earned income tax credit permanent. These are the most effective tools we have to cut poverty and child poverty," she said.
What Comes Next
President Biden concluded his speech saying, "With light and hope, we summoned new strength and new resolve. There is nothing—nothing—beyond our capacity—nothing we can't do—if we do it together."
This is a poetic and hopeful message to millions of Americans across the country. But families need action. President Biden called on Congress to introduce and pass his American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, as well as signaled his intention to work with them on many other issues, from climate change to foreign policy.
To get involved in the proposed policies, call your legislators, get involved locally so you can advocate for the policies you believe in wherever you live, and subscribe to Your Political Playlist to stay up to date on all things policy that impact your family.
Emily Tisch Sussman is the host of Your Political Playlist and interviews women at the seat of power and activism bringing bite-sized policy conversations to your morning coffee routine. You can find more conversations with people like Senator Duckworth, Reshma Saujani, and Tamara Fucile at YourPoliticalPlaylist.com.