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Biden announces new childcare plan: Who qualifies?

The Biden administration said on Thursday that it will grant more than $13 million to higher educational institutions across the country to assist with campus childcare programs for parents enrolled in classes.

The nearly three dozen schools that will receive support include Jacksonville State University in the southern state of Alabama, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Atlanta Metropolitan State College in Georgia and University of Delaware.

One in five students in the U.S. are parents and 42 percent of student parents tend to go to community colleges, part of the reason some of the childcare funding announced will go to several community colleges.

“I am a big believer in campus child care programs because I’ve seen how they break down barriers to upskilling and attaining postsecondary education for parents with young children—bringing the American Dream within reach for families across America,” education secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

Childcare has emerged as a costly expense for households with Americans now forced to spend a third of their income on such services, research shows. The Biden administration had introduced childcare benefits through its COVID-era stimulus plan the American Rescue Plan, but that ended in September and could lead to the closure of thousands of daycare centers.

The sector also has struggled to recruit enough workers partly due to low pay, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, contributing to the emergence of “childcare deserts” where parents simply have no access to such help.

Better pay for childcare workers

The funding made available Thursday will ask institutions to show how they plan to pay higher wages for childcare workers who typically tend to earn about $13 an hour, the Department of Labor says.

The education department said that it also gave priority to institutions that planned to improve care for low-income parents and will raise pay for early childhood teachers.

Research shows that the bulk of childcare often falls to women, forcing them to pause their careers to the detriment of the economy.

A recent study from Oxford Economics showed that more women working could help the U.S. economy avoid a recession. The biggest obstacle to more women staying in their jobs compared to men and pursuing ambitious career goals is having to take on family responsibilities, such as caring for their children, the study said.

Data shows childcare prices hit families’ wallets to the tune of thousands of dollars. Other studies show that in some cities in America, it can cost more than $500 a week for the service.

“Higher childcare prices are especially detrimental to maternal employment as mothers’ employment drops in areas with more expensive child care, even in places where women’s wages are higher,” the labor department has said.

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