Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo On Universal Pre-K: 'That Would Be a Game-Changer'

The mom of two joined Emily Tisch Sussman on the Moms Run the World Instagram Live series to talk about how jobs, the economy, and child care are inextricably linked.

In March, President Joe Biden introduced his $2 trillion investment in jobs and all types of infrastructure. Shortly after, he tasked five members of his cabinet to spread the word about his plan. After only being on the job for a month and a half, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, is hitting the ground running as one of the five cabinet members helping President Biden build support from both Congress and the American public for his American Jobs Plan.

On the Moms Run the World Instagram Live series, the mom, 40th U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and former first female governor of Rhode Island spoke with host Emily Tisch Sussman about how her personal and professional experience have helped her sell the American Jobs Plan.

Her Experience as a Governor

For the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary Raimondo was actually Governor Raimondo. As the governor of Rhode Island during the height of the pandemic, she set up testing sites, contact tracing, a vaccination strategy, and initiatives to help struggling Rhode Islanders.

"When I was governor I created an initiative called Back to Work Rhode Island, and we put 7,000 people back to work who had lost their jobs from COVID," she says.

As governor, she also pioneered universal pre-K for her state and championed free two-year community college for those who qualify.

Families Across the Country Are Struggling

As a mother of two, the secretary knows the toll the pandemic has had on families and their children. "Lack of child care, lack of jobs is hard on families, men and women alike. The facts are that women were hit harder. More women dropped out of the labor force than men. We still have more than 2 million women who are not back in the labor force," she says.

Not only have parents struggled to keep their head above water this year, but their children have also had to grapple with massive changes and challenges.

"With virtual school, not being able to see their friends, to not be able to play sports—it's been a rough year. So anything that makes it easier and more stable is worth doing," the secretary says.

An image of Gina Raimondo.
Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

The Plan for Universal Pre-K

It is clear that in order to build back a strong economy, investing in child care is essential. Recently, Secretary Raimondo visited her home state of Rhode Island with Vice President Kamala Harris to talk with small businesses about how the pandemic has impacted them.

The fight is far from over for struggling businesses and working moms. "Women are really struggling because a lot of child care centers are still closed. It is hard to juggle a career and parenting, even if you have high-quality reliable child care. To do it without high-quality reliable child care is just overwhelming," says Secretary Raimondo.

To confront the growing strain surrounding the care economy, the American Jobs Plan is investing in universal pre-K. "Part of the problem now, is that you have a patchwork of small child care providers, but it's a fragile system. If it were public that would be a game-changer," says Secretary Raimondo.

Why Having Women at the Top Matters

Secretary Raimondo is among a historic number of women who hold economic leadership positions in the Biden Administration. Each of them have the unique ability to apply their personal and professional experience to their job, creating policy that addresses the fundamental issues impacting families today.

Having women in top economic positions means that "these issues of child care, workforce development, universal pre-K stay front and center."

With the introduction of both the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, there is hope that mothers who have sacrificed so much, are able to get a fair shot at both working and being a parent.

And Secretary Raimondo says she becomes more and more committed every day. "The more I am out and about talking about the American Jobs package, the more committed I am to getting it passed because there is just so much struggle in American right now," she says. "The package is big and bold, and it's what we need."

To hear Emily have more conversations with women at the center of policy and activism subscribe to Your Political Playlist.

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