A liberal advocacy group is calling on the presidential candidates to talk more about affordable child care during their stops in Iowa.
The group Progress Iowa sponsored a news conference that included Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
“The reality is, in a time where wages are pretty stuck for most families, the rising cost of child care is really contributing to the squeeze families are facing,” Tanden says. “For the average American family with an infant and a toddler, child care costs nearly 18-thousand dollars every year — let me say that again, nearly 18-thousand dollars every year — which amounts to a third of the average income for those families.”
Tanden says high quality child care can cost a family the same amount each month as a mortgage payment. And then you add in other costs such as transportation, food and utilities. “And it’s that kind of squeeze I think a lot of families are facing and are contributing to the debate that we are having on national issues right now,” Tanden says. Tanden says her organization is a “think tank” that commissioned a poll that showed 70 percent of likely caucus goers in Iowa believe child care is too expensive and out of reach for working families. She says our country is way behind others on the issue.
“In American families, 65 percent of children under age six have both parents in the workforce. This is the reality, this is what’s happening,” Tanden says. “And yet we do very little as a country to help those families struggling with those costs. We have really not national child care policy that makes it possible for most families to afford child care.”
Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin also spoke at the event.
“Child care is completely out of reach for too many American families. And for too many children of low income, it means their growth and their development is stunted from the start,” Harkin says.
Harkin, a Democrat who retired last year, says the issue should be getting more attention from the candidates looking for Caucus votes.
He says there’s a lot of discussion by the political campaigns about helping working families, including raising the minimum wage, strengthening Social Security and keeping drug prices down. “All important middle class family issues,” Harkin says. “But one big part is not being discussed enough, and that is affordable, quality child care.” Harkin says the federal block grant program to help low income people with child care was reauthorized before he retired, but he says the proper funding needs to be appropriated for the program.
He urges voters to ask the candidates about the child care issues. “We all focus on the presidential race right now obviously in Iowa. But next year is also the legislative races here in the state of Iowa,” Harkin says. “Ask your legislative candidates what they are going to do in Iowa and put the funding at the state level to match the block grant program from the federal government.”
The news conference was held during the noon hour at a Des Moines child care center.