President Biden is calling for paid family leave, childcare subsidies, and free preschool and community college in his sweeping American Families Plan.

Biden formally introduced the $1.8 trillion plan, which is part of his Build Back Better agenda, before a joint session of Congress in April. This month, the President called for support for the plan during a speech in Illinois.

“No one should have to choose between a job and a paycheck and take caring of someone you love—a parent, a spouse, a child,” said Biden.

He argues the proposal is a necessary investment in children and families. It would expand access to education and childcare, as well as offer paid family leave for American workers. The plan would be financed, at least in part, by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

We wanted to learn more about the American Families Plan and the Build Back Better Agenda, so we spoke with White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.


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“Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Interview”

Here’s what’s in the American Families Plan:

The creation of a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program

$225 billion has been earmarked to create a national paid leave program. Workers would be eligible for partial assistance for up to three months to spend with a new child, recover from an illness, care for a loved one or handle a partner’s military deployment. The program will provide workers up to $4,000 a month, with a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages paid, rising to 80 percent for the lowest wage workers.

We know this is an issue that mothers support. Our annual State of Motherhood survey revealed that the number one political issue that mothers support is paid family leave. 92% of mothers support legislative action to increase support for parental leave and childcare. 93% said that employers could better support new mothers with longer, paid leave plans.

“We’re talking about 12 weeks,” says Jean-Pierre. “This is a federal program so you have to apply for it through the federal government. What will happen is once you apply for it and you’re approved for it, then you get that funding, that money that you needed during that time that you had to take off from work.”

“It really is a lifeline, if you will,” she adds.

An investment in childcare programs

An additional $225 billion would go toward covering child care costs for low-income parents with children ages five or younger. The White House cited a study that says our economy loses $57 billion each year in earnings and productivity because of a lack of affordable child care options.

The plan would also set a $15 minimum wage for early childhood care providers and educators. More than nine in ten are women and more than four in ten are women of color.

The American Families Plan also calls for a sliding pay scale for childcare costs. Families with the greatest financial needs will be fully covered and families earning 1.5 times their state median will pay no more than seven percent of their income.

“The idea is that they’re not spending more than seven percent of their annual income on making sure that they’re getting that childcare for their kids,” explains Jean-Pierre.

Universal preschool for all three- and four-year-olds

“It’s popular across the board and again, another lifeline for parents, who many of them left the workforce this past year because they didn’t have childcare,” says Jean-Pierre of the proposal for universal pre-k.

It would offer free, high-quality preschool to all three- and four-year-olds in the country, regardless of family income. There are roughly five million children that would benefit, saving the average family $13,000.

“We make it flexible, so parents can make the choice that fits the best for them, for their families,” she says. “Whether it’s daycare, headstart, universal pre-k, whatever is the most important and critical for that family.”

Again, we know this is an issue that mothers support. Our State of Motherhood survey found that 73% of moms say they support paid family leave, and 74% of mothers want free, universal childcare.

Free community college and other postsecondary investments

The plan would also offer two years of free community college to all Americans, including DREAMers. It would increase the Pell Grant award, ensuring that low-income students can keep up with rising tuition costs.

This isn’t just for recent high school graduates, either. All adults would be eligible for that tuition, including non-traditional students.

Investments in teachers

The American Families Plan calls for $9 billion in investments in American teachers, including doubling scholarships for future teachers from $4,000 to $8,000 per year while earning their degree, strengthening the program and expanding it to early childhood educators. The plan also includes $400 million for teacher preparation at HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs and $900 million for the development of special education teachers.

Jean-Pierre says that by investing in our teachers, we’re investing in our children—and the future of the nation.

Expanding free school meal programs

The plan would provide free and reduced lunches through the summer to all American students, regardless of family income. It would also expand the free meal programs in high-poverty areas.

Extending tax credits that benefit families

The plan calls for the extension of the Child Tax Credit increases in the American Rescue Plan through 2025. It would also make the Child Tax Credit permanently fully refundable and make the Earned Income Tax Credit Expansion for childless workers permanent.

This story was first published on April 28, 2021.