BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — President Joe Biden has now delivered his first joint address to Congress as Commander-in-Chief.
A key point in his address was a proposed plan to help families across the country.
The so-called "American Families Plan" comes with a steep price tag of about $1.8 trillion dollars and is part of a larger collection of massive spending bills on the docket in Washington now.
"The most hard-pressed working families won't have to spend a dime."
In the proposed plan are items like free universal preschool, two years of tuition-free community college and boosted funding for child care. Lower and middle-income Americans, Biden touted, "won't have to spend a dime," instead, passing the tax burden on to people who make more than $400,000 and big corporations.
But what could this plan mean for Western New York parents and child care providers in the area?
"Even before the pandemic, child care costs in New York state were astronomical," said Child Care Resource Network of WNY Communication Specialist Kaley Donaldson. "When you're looking at a year's worth of care for an infant, parents are anticipated to pay more than what they pay for SUNY in-state tuition. So any economic relief, especially now that families have been hit so hard by the pandemic is really helpful for anyone that can get it."
And the need for help is great across Western New York.
"Everyone that has children right now has been affected by the pandemic," said Donaldson, explaining that the Child Care Resource Network of WNY speaks with 30 to 40 families per day that are in need of assistance finding child care placement in the area.
"The families that are suffering have been skewed by the pandemic," she said. "You have a lot of school-aged children where schools aren't back in session yet, or they're only in part-time and are struggling to find child care."
The president's push to fund both free preschool programs and boost daycare funding, Donaldson said, will only help provide parents with more options for their children.
"There's no one-size-fits-all approach for childcare," she explained. "By diversifying the options that he's funding, he's allowing families to really pick what's best for them, what's best for their family, and their particular situation."
And that dual-funding approach may also help child care providers, in turn, open up more slots to care for younger children.
"Hopefully, the idea is that that will fund enough programs to start opening up those infant slots because your toddlers are then going to preschool and those slots are there, which would give you more room for infants and young toddlers," she explained.
The impact on jobs and job security in child care work
But perhaps one of the biggest impacts Donaldson said the American Families Plan could have is that it may help keep struggling child care centers in Western New York afloat.
"We also, in Western New York, had some of the highest rates of child care closures in the state because of the pandemic," Donaldson said. "And we're not sure yet how many of those are going to remain permanently closed. So any investment in child care that we can bank right now is going to be really crucial to ensuring that this infrastructure stays solid."
The president also pushed to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour during Wednesday night's address.
That move, Donaldson said, may also help to shore up job instability in the child care workforce by helping child care providers offer more competitive wages and retain more workers.
Resources for parents
The Child Care Resource Network of WNY has a helpful guide to all of the financial help that's available to parents in the meantime, including through the following: