President Joe Biden signed an executive order to expand access to high-quality child care and long-term care for caregivers in the United States. The order aims to guarantee affordable child care for families and improve working conditions for caregivers. While additional funding for these programs may face challenges in Congress, the order represents a strong commitment by the Biden administration to support families and caregivers across the country.
On April 20, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at expanding access to high-quality child care and long-term care for caregivers in the United States. The order is being hailed as “the most comprehensive set of actions any administration has taken to date to increase access to high-quality child care, long-term care, and support for caregivers.”
President Biden emphasized the significance of the care economy to the larger economy during the signing ceremony, which was attended by advocates and providers of child care and family care. He also highlighted the difficulties that many working- and middle-class families face in providing care for their families. He also noted that the pandemic has made it even clearer just how hard it is for families to provide care for their loved ones.
The executive order aims to expand and guarantee access to affordable child care for families, including military families. It directs federal agencies to identify which of their grant programs can support child care and long-term care for individuals working on federal projects and consider requiring applicants seeking federal job-creating funds to expand access to care for their workers. The order also directs the Department of Defense to take steps to improve the affordability of child care on military installations.
The order directs the Office of Personnel Management to conduct a review of child care subsidy policy and consider setting government-wide standards for federal government employees to access such assistance. Expanded access could come through federal child care centers, child care subsidies, or contracted care for providers.
Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice called the move “historic” during a call with reporters previewing the executive order, though any additional funding for such efforts would face an unlikely road in Congress. “Child care and long-term care systems in this country just don’t work well; high-quality care is costly to deliver, it’s labor-intensive, and it requires skilled workers,” Rice said. “Yet care workers—who are disproportionately women, women of color, and immigrants—are among the lowest paid in the country, despite working in some of the most important, complex, and demanding jobs.” “At the same time, the price of care represents an outside share of a family’s budget, with child care prices up 26% in just the last decade and long-term care costs up nearly 40%.”
Additional steps outlined in the executive order would seek to improve working conditions for early educators, long-term care workers, and childcare workers. The order instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to increase pay and benefits for Head Start employees, issue regulations to ensure Medicaid funding for long-term and home care workers caring for Medicaid enrollees, and test a new dementia care model that would include support for respite care under Medicare.
The Department of Labor will also publish a sample employment agreement “so domestic childcare and long-term care workers and their employers can ensure both parties better understand their rights and responsibilities.”
Still, one administration official acknowledged that any additional funding for long-term care and childcare programs would face steep headwinds in a divided Congress. While the president included “a robust, holistic care agenda” in his proposed budget, it faces challenges as long as Republicans control the US House of Representatives.
Overall, President Biden’s executive order is a big step towards increasing American caregivers’ access to high-quality long-term care and child care. While additional funding for these programs may face challenges in Congress, the order represents a strong commitment by the Biden administration to support families and caregivers across the country.