Advocates see Biden’s families plan as step forward

U.S. President Joe Biden. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

As part of his plans post-State of the Union, President Joe Biden introduced the “American Families Plan,” targeting low-income families, child care and paid leave.

Ohio advocacy groups say these steps would help move the country forward post-pandemic, and address issues they’ve been fighting for in the state for a long time.

“For decades, state and federal lawmakers haven’t made the necessary investments in our children’s future, in Ohio families, and in the workforce who provide this critical service,” said Will Petrik, budget researcher for think tank Policy Matters Ohio.

The White House released details on the plan Thursday, to include universal pre-school for three and four-year-olds, doubling of scholarships for future teachers, an increase in funding or child care and a jump in Pell Grant funding for higher education.

Citing the non-profit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Petrik said the new plan would reduce child poverty by more than 40% with the temporary expansion of the child tax credit through 2025.

In Ohio, child care has been touted as a critical infrastructure issue that impacts the economy on several levels. Pre-pandemic, child care assistance was important to help parents and guardians get to work while children got the care they needed.

Pre-pandemic, only 26% of Black children started kindergarten at a level considered “ready to learn,” Petrik said.

“Every child, regardless of race, class or ZIP code deserves to be safe, health and nurtured,” Petrik said. “This isn’t just a step in the right direction; it would be transformative for millions for children and families across the nation.”

A piece of legislation to increase the eligibility level for child care public assistance is currently being considered by the Ohio legislature. Under the bill, eligibility would increase from 200% of the federal poverty level.

The Biden administration also pledged to address nationwide paid leave, urging Congress to guarantee 12-weeks of paid parental, family and personal illness/safe leave in the next ten years, and up to $4,000 a month for workers. The White House estimates the program will cost $225 billion over the decade.

Paid leave has been an issue on the table for years, with supporters of an increase in nationwide leave standards saying the country would only be catching up with comparable countries in the world who provide the leave regularly.

Erin Ryan, managing director of the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network and policy analyst for Innovation Ohio said the paid and medical leave provisions would “extend comprehensive and equitable paid leave to millions of working people, particularly Black and Latinx women working in low-wage jobs crucial to our economy and recovery.”

“It would be transformational for Ohioans, especially women who have shouldered the burden of the pandemic and stepped up to take on creased family and caregiving duties, who need the time to care for themselves or their loved ones without risking their job or their paycheck,” Ryan told the OCJ.

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