Social Navigation

Biden is committed to making childcare cheaper, paying workers more


Key learning points

  • President Biden has signed an executive order with 50 instructions to federal agencies to support family caregiving.
  • The order, which does not include new funding, asks federal departments to find ways to reduce costs for families and raise wages for caregivers.
  • Biden’s order aims to make care for children, the elderly and the disabled more affordable, though it is much less ambitious than the massive federal support for childcare he has proposed in 2021.

President Joe Biden has taken steps—albeit limited—to make care for children, the disabled, and the elderly more affordable and convenient, and to raise wages for workers in those areas.

That’s the goal of an executive order Biden signed on Tuesday that issues 50 guidelines to federal agencies, all designed to expand the availability and affordability of healthcare services. The executive order is much less ambitious than the multi-billion dollar programs he has proposed in 2021. However, unlike the childcare subsidies proposed in the Build Back Better bill, Biden’s latest actions can be implemented without the approval of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. .

“The cost of care is too high,” Biden said in a speech at the White House. “Family members are too often forced to leave their own good jobs to stay home to be mom and dad…. No one should have to choose between caring for the parents who raised them, the children who depend on them, or the salary they depend on to care for both.”

Healthcare costs, especially for children, are increasingly putting pressure on the household budget. Data from the Department of Labor shows that as of 2018 (the most recent information available) average childcare costs consume between $5,357 and $17,171 per year, or 8% and 19.3% of typical household income per child, depending of the child’s location and age.

According to the White House, the cost of child care has increased 26% over the past 10 years and the cost of long-term care for the elderly and people with disabilities has increased by 40%.

Biden’s order included guidelines for federal agencies to:

  • Lower co-payments for people who participate in existing subsidized childcare programs funded by the federal government.
  • Make childcare at military installations more affordable.
  • Expand child care for federal employees.
  • Look for ways to require companies seeking federal funds to expand access to family care for their employees. This would be similar to how the CHIPS Act, which subsidizes computer chip factories and requires companies that have used federal funds, to make affordable child care available to all their employees.
  • Expand home care for veterans through the Veterans Administration.
  • Increase pay for Head Start teachers and staff.

While the reforms announced Tuesday aren’t as sweeping as what could be done with Congressional approval, and the details of benefits for families will depend on how federal agencies implement them, they are a step in the right direction, Anne said. Hedgpeth, chief of policy and advocacy at Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit advocating for increased investment in childcare.

“It is good news to see the Biden administration continue to prioritize childcare,” Hedgepeth said. “We see and hear every day from parents whose childcare prices are out of reach, and from childcare providers struggling to make ends meet because fees are so low and programs operate on such slim margins. There are some great steps here that we help agencies take to heart that can make a difference for many people.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.