The Build Back Better Act had the opportunity to be “the New contract‘ in our time. The legislation would have so much radically transformed the realities of millions of working families that the positive impacts would have been felt for generations.
However, as a package, it now appears to be dead in the water because of lawmakers like Senator Manchin of West Virginia. Scary as it may sound, now is the time to save the social services we know will have the biggest impact on children and families in San Diego: investing in child care and expanding credit. child tax.
When it comes to child care in San Diego County, the system is collapsing around us. We were in crisis before the pandemic – think 90% deficit in infant and toddler care – but now it’s terrible. Because of COVID and staff shortages, some child care centers have had to drop from more than 20 in-person sites to less than five due to quarantines. But none of this should come as a surprise.
After all, here in San Diego County, we know all too well the consequences of an underfunded child care system. Families pay more than $20,000 per year for infant care – more than double the annual tuition at San Diego State University. San Diego also experiences disproportionately low female labor force participation. in comparison to other similar counties (a ‘surrender’ which has only accelerated with COVID). A legacy of child care providers carrying the burden of what it really costs take care of children from 0 to 5 years old, by striving to remunerate their educators commensurate with the importance of their work. Our the local economy reflects all these struggles.
What if the government made substantial investments helping active families keep their childrenthrough both increased subsidies for parent choice vouchers in a mixed distribution system, and higher remuneration for health care providers? With the ability to find and pay for the child care that works best for them, parents could work more – if they choose – or in better-paying jobs, ultimately earning more income. This equates to more financial stability and educational opportunities, which are net benefits to our economy.
With increased funding for care, children are also likely to receive better quality early care and learning. Given that 90 percent of brain development occurs before the age of five, and the resounding positive impacts of exceptional early care and learning, quality is the key. If care providers are compensated fairly and are not short of their own basic needs – or too stretched because of a labor crisis – they have more bandwidth and capacity to deal with the young people in their care.
Many of these same benefits parallel to the extension of a tax credit for childrenbetter equip families with the funds to cover the extra costs associated with raising a child, which families in San Diego need now more than ever.
In our region, more than 200,000 children live in families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or $53,000 per year for a family of four. Whole neighborhoods experience more than 80 to 90% of families struggling to make ends meet. It is our collective moral failure for every child growing up in hunger, housing insecurity, unpredictable child care and expensive health care. It is also a to the detriment of the whole society if families are kept in cycles of poverty. Children living in poverty face gradually more obstacles to achieve a full and rewarding adult life. And that has an impact on what the future of San Diego will look like.
Knowing all these benefits, what are we waiting for?
Senators like Manchin, who have come out against the Build Back Better Act, say their biggest complaints are that it’s too expensive and that the bill’s costs are hidden. If anything, the the cost is clear. It’s the cost of inaction it’s confusing.
Researchers have found that child poverty costs the United States more than $1 trillion per year, or around 5.4% of GDP. Conversely, research shows that for every dollar invested in children, the the government saves between $4 and $9 in the future. For fiscal conservatives, the return on investment should be a no-brainer.
If we just look at the part of the Build Back Better Act that would have been devoted to the Child Tax Credit – about 130 billion dollars – and looked at the savings this investment would have on the future, it is between $520 billion and $1.1 trillion in savings. Imagine what gaining, rather than losing, $1 trillion a year would do for children and families.
The Build Back Better Act would have been the best-case scenario for children and families in San Diego. Instead, the expanded Child Tax Credit was allowed to expire, sending millions of children back into the experience of poverty. It was a conscious political decision. The next step is to save what we can from legislation, so that we don’t see this as a time when we could have made a difference in the lives of children and have not.