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Common Grounds: Congressional Leaders Discuss How to Solve America’s Childcare Crisis

Common Grounds Childcare Conversation

In this week’s Common Grounds event, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley hosted a discussion with Reps. Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) on how to provide better access to affordable childcare.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts Common Grounds to convene one Republican leader and one Democratic leader to explore important issues or challenges facing the business community and the nation. Over a cup of coffee, we discuss opportunities for consensus, legitimate policy differences, and pathways to compromise and meaningful solutions. 

What Happened?
The representatives discussed possible policy solutions to the childcare crisis which is forcing too many American families to choose between working and providing childcare themselves.  They also discussed how having more working mothers elected to Congress has elevated childcare as an issue, the chronic childcare workforce shortage, and the need to find ways to “lower the temperature” in debates taking place in Washington and nationwide.

What the Experts Are Saying

“One thing the pandemic really exposed was how a lack of access to affordable childcare can impact the ability of working parents to simply go to work.” – Neil Bradley.

“Nationwide, we are seeing shortages of childcare on the supply side and we’re also seeing affordability issues, to the point where about in half of our states, center-based infant care is more expensive than state college tuition, which is shocking. I don’t think many people realize the crisis that so many working families are facing.” – Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).

“I have yet to meet the working mom who has said to me: ‘Childcare was just a breeze. It was lovely. I had my baby, I found this quality and affordable childcare center next door. They took my child as soon  as I was ready to return to work.’” – Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).

“If you can find that [childcare] center, many times you’re looking at paying your whole paycheck towards childcare. So, that becomes a dilemma…Too many women then choose to get out of the workforce. We know that if you get out of the workforce for just one year, that’s a forty percent drop in your income over the next 15 years.” – Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).

“Because we have seen so many women representatives we have seen get into Congress—that has really moved the conversation on childcare forward.” – Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).

“Look at the April, look at the August jobs numbers. Working women have not been returning to the workforce and it really is creating a critical crisis. We need that back.” – Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).

“The one thing that I would ask of everybody in the room or watching this—is to help us lower the temperature. So many times, we get so worked up over an issue, that we stoke the flames of violence in some communities. I had my house spray painted this summer, for example. I had my car keyed last year, the day of one of my debates…We have serious issues that we need to tackle and tackle them together.” – Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC).

“Sometimes in this country, our regulations are so burdensome it doesn’t make a lot of sense and makes things more unaffordable…I actually sponsored legislation that would repeal a regulation that stated that if you were a childcare worker you had to have a college degree. Well, there are many people out there that don’t need a college degree to take care of children…When we put laws in place sometimes, there are unnecessary, unintended consequences.” – Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC).

“Having more women in Congress, having moms in particular, being able to talk about these issues from a personal perspective—is certainly an added benefit.” – Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC).

“I think there are some commonsense things we can do that are nonpartisan…I truly want to find ways to work together that won’t break the bank.” – Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC).

Up Next:
Please join us for future Common Ground events where we will sit down with leaders who have the courage to work across the aisle and get things done in Washington.

Additional Resources:

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