Harris touts child care funding and payments to families
ASSOCIATED PRESS (AP)– Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted the Biden administration’s efforts to expand child care and relieve the financial pressures of parenthood during a visit to a child care center on Friday.
Harris is discussing new guidance on $15 billion in grants to support child care programs, forthcoming payments to families from the child tax credit and a separate credit to help parents pay for care.
The outreach is part of the continued implementation of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package to help the U.S. economy heal from the coronavirus pandemic. Administration officials said they expect that several million families will benefit from the assistance, while underscoring that the money should enable more parents to work and boost economic growth.
“We know that the pandemic did not invent these challenges, but it certainly accelerated these challenges,” Harris said Friday at CentroNía in Washington. “Childcare centers were closed. Parents have been out of work. Families’ budgets have been stretched.”
Harris spoke about a key administration priority while Biden attends the Group of Seven summit in the U.K. The Democratic administration is making a case for government aid to foster economic gains and improve people’s lives, while many Republican lawmakers say that the relief package is unleashing inflation that could hurt the economy and Americans’ well-being.
The administration is also seeking to gain support to spend trillions of dollars more on infrastructure, education, and extending parts of its relief package that provide aid to families. In a virtual meeting with small businesses on Thursday, Cecilia Rouse, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said that help for workers would also benefit companies.
“When employees do not have to worry that they are unable to meet the needs of their loved ones, they’re more productive, more attentive and better able to maintain skills needed to succeed in the labor market,” Rouse said.
Many parents have needed to forgo work because of the pandemic, and the administration is banking on $15 billion for child care and development block grants to make it easier for people to return to jobs. That sum is on top of the $24 billion already going to states, territories and tribes to stabilize the child care sector.
One in eight child care jobs have yet to return after the pandemic closed many centers and schools, according to the administration. The aid is to be used for payments to child care providers and compensation for caregivers, both of which are designed to improve access and quality of services.
Harris also announced an outreach effort on June 21 to ensure that families receive the child tax credit. The relief package increased the size of the credit, and the IRS is scheduled to begin issuing payments on July 15.
An eligible family would receive $300 a month for a child under the age of 6 and $250 for those between the ages of 6 and 17. Experts forecast that the payments could halve child poverty.
Estimates from the IRS suggest that 39 million households accounting for nearly 9 in 10 U.S. children are already set to receive the payments. Families that have yet to file their taxes and did not sign up for the direct payments in the relief package can still register.
Key goals of the administration’s outreach are to build support for extending the payments, which would lapse after one year, and raising awareness that people can qualify for them.
The IRS on Friday will release guidance on an enhanced tax credit for child and dependent care. Families with incomes up to $125,000 could get a tax credit as much as $4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two or more children for the 2021 tax year. The credit will also be fully refundable, meaning that lower income families with no tax burden could qualify for it.
IRS officials will separately issue guidance for a paid leave tax credit, which would offset the cost to employers that offer paid sick and family leave because of events stemming from the coronavirus. The credit would go to employers with fewer than 500 workers. The employers could receive as much as $17,110 for up to 10 days of paid sick leave and as many as 12 weeks of paid family leave.