President Biden’s Build Back Better plan is taking heat because the language used blocks federal funds from providing resources for religious child care providers. H.R. 5376 was passed by the House of Representatives leaving it stalled in the Senate. The Build Back Better plan provides $390 billion for child care and universal pre-K. Part of the bill requires, however, that money not go towards facilities that “are used primarily for sectarian instruction or religious worship.” This means no daycares which are held in churches such as the popular southern daycare provider “WEE SHINE,” which commonly sets up in baptists churches on the east coast. The south is not the only group of people who use these options, for people in smaller cities and towns, often this type of option is the only option available. The closest large cities have facilities that are required to be covered by this bill, but are far away from these small town workers who may work in town, or a close smaller city who may have one or two child care centers which generally stay at capacity.
What else does the Bill Say about Childcare?
Other provisions in the Build Back Better plan include potentially problematic nondiscrimination restrictions. They also risk forcing providers out of state-based universal pre-K programs, according to a letter multiple religious organizations sent to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) on Dec. 1. “While language in the BBBA [Build Back Better Act] does not preclude parents from selecting sectarian providers, the subsequent provisions in the bill text make it virtually impossible for many religious providers to participate,” read the letter, which was signed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others. While it’s unclear exactly how the legislative language will be applied, the letter pointed to a poll showing a substantial chunk of American families use child care centers “affiliated with a faith organization.” The poll conducted by Morning Consult and the Bipartisan Policy Center found: “In January 2020, 31% of households with a single parent or two working parents used center-based care, and over half (53%) of these families used one that was affiliated with a faith organization.”
What does Biden Say about the Bill?
Biden has defended the Bill, saying: “The Build Back Better framework will enable states to expand access to free preschool for more than 6 million children per year and increase the quality of preschool for many more children already enrolled. Importantly, parents will be able to send children to high-quality preschool in the setting of their choice — from public schools to child care providers to Head Start. The program will lead to lifelong educational and economic benefits for children and parents, and is a transformational investment in America’s future economic competitiveness.”
Biden’s agenda here is supposedly making childcare more affordable in order for parents to join the workforce. What about small town America, Biden? What will those people who rely on religious based child care going to do? Should they drive extra hours they could be spending working, taking care of their child, or even taking a moment for themselves? Senate Republicans, including Utah’s Mitt Romney, say the Democrats’ Build Back Better plan would hurt religious working parents’ ability to find and pay for child care. Romney said the “Build Back Better” plan is fraught with problems because it was drafted without input from Republicans and without any hearings. “Is that the right way to get a piece of legislation done which affects, in this case, a pretty darn important thing: our children and raising our kids?” he said. “You might say Republicans don’t care about this. Actually, we do.” Many other Republicans have joined Mitt Romney in voicing their opposition.
What do Other Republicans say about the Bill?
The GOP senators say President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan will cost more than twice the $1.75 trillion Democrats claim, coming in around $5 trillion according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Richard Burr of North Carolina, said while the bill proposes $381 billion for child care and universal pre-K programs, the Congressional Budget Office pegs it at $752 billion if they remain in place for 10 years. “And that’s making an assumption that 34% of eligible young children live in states that won’t participate in the child care piece and 40% of eligible preschoolers live in states that won’t participate in a pre-K plan,” he said during a news conference in Washington, D.C. Burr said an analysis of the plan shows “middle-class families face an inflationary cost increase of $13,000 a year per child for child care.” The legislation also shrinks the supply of child care providers by “killing off faith-based providers, small family child care homes and kinship care,” he said.
Republican Ben Sasse out of Nebraska, said more than half of all American families who use institutional child care place their children in faith-based centers. “Biden ran to tackle a bunch of problems in the country, but religious day care wasn’t one that Americans identified,” he said. Sasse went on to call the move “just breathtakingly stupid.” He went on to say “I’ve never once heard a Nebraska family say, ‘The thing I really want is to make sure that religious day care is made bankrupt. Could you please send people to Washington and bankrupt religious day care?'” Do you or some you know use a faith-based daycare? Does your small church have a weekly daycare that helps to pay a lot of the church’s bills? Would you risk trusting another facility to take care of your child if it meant you could have free childcare? If you suddenly could not use childcare based out of a place of worship, would you have to go very far out of your way to use an approved facility?
Written by: Erinn Malloy