Bonamici and Child Care Providers Speak of Gaps in Build Back Better | Government and politics

It’s no secret that Oregon is in desperate need of enhanced child care.

Every county in Beaver State was considered a child care desert for infants and toddlers in a 2012 Oregon State University report, long before COVID-19 don’t bring the problem to the fore. Child care providers and advocates say the problem has only worsened in recent years.

United States Representative Suzanne Bonamici reiterated the point at her quarterly meeting of the Oregon Child Care Advisory Council on Monday.

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“I want to say that she is finally getting the attention she needs and deserves: the issue of affordable and accessible child care,” she said. “And we know it was a challenge even before the pandemic, and the pandemic has exacerbated it.

“I have worked to deliver this kind of long overdue investment in both providers and affordable access. “

The Build Back Better Act is designed to improve the country’s “care economy”, as its supporters say.

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President Joe Biden’s signing legislation includes a historic investment of nearly $ 400 billion, which aims to both reduce the cost of child care and secure the universal preschool for 3 and 4 year olds to children. United States.

Today, only about 23% of Oregon children in this age group have access to a state-funded preschool, according to Bill’s backgrounder. Families who do not have access to a state-funded program are forced to shell out about $ 8,600 per year for private preschool, according to whitehouse.gov.

The bill, while quite large, has been scaled back from what was originally proposed, with perhaps more changes to come in the Senate.

Capitol Hill senators have two more weeks to pass the bill and meet their self-imposed Christmas deadline. It is not known if they will or if the Democrats will have the votes. Moderates like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have refrained from saying they would vote for it, with Manchin expressing concerns about the increase in the national debt.

Republicans refer to a Congressional Budget Office report they requested that said the bill would add $ 3 trillion to the deficit. Democrats say the score is inaccurate and is not based on the current version of the bill.

“Once (Build Back Better) is fully implemented, and of course it still has to be passed by the Senate, it will ensure that over 13 million young children are eligible for (child care) assistance. children), ”Bonamici said. “The intention is to ensure that it is not only affordable and accessible, but also of high quality.”

Higher wages for daycare workers are also a priority, Bonamici said.

“As part of Build Back Better, nursery and universal kindergarten workers will be paid proportionately to elementary school educators with similar qualifications,” she said.

But some child care and work advocates say the bill is insufficient for caregivers of family, friends and neighbors, who made up at least 30% of child care providers long before the birth. pandemic, according to Oregon State University support.

Care of family, friends and neighbors generally refers to home care that is not regulated.

“There is a real lingering ambivalence about the role of friend / family / neighbor providers in this larger system,” said Andrea Paluso, executive director of advocacy group Family Forward Oregon.

This “ambivalence” manifests itself in multiple ways. An unregulated workforce, for example, will not reap the same benefits and better wages in the same way as the rest of the child care workforce.

This also appears in Build Back Better, which requires childcare providers to be licensed.

“I’m really worried about this new requirement that all vendors be licensed, and the barriers this will create for FFN vendors to participate in the system,” Paluso said, “especially for families who are already using FFN providers who are already struggling the most to participate in this system, who operate in languages ​​other than English or who have technological challenges and gaps. “

Bonamici noted that Build Back Better includes “technical assistance” for licensing processes, but she also agreed that when implementing standards in Oregon it will be prudent to ensure that the right vendors are not. lost due to new license requirements.

“Of course we all want children to be safe and facilities to be safe, but we really need to keep an eye on that,” she said.

As the Senate quickly approaches the Christmas deadline, Bonamici is encouraging citizens to reach out to their members of Congress to lobby for passage of the bill.

“It is really helpful to inform our senators, but also, if you are networking with people in other states, just to stress the importance of these investments,” she said.

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