Vote Mama Foundation, a nonprofit working toward gender equity by breaking down the structural and cultural barriers mothers face while running for office, has launched a new campaign that would allow candidates for local and state office to use campaign funds to help pay for childcare.
The group says this legislation just makes sense. It will help remove a significant obstacle that many mothers face when running for office: affording childcare.
"Whether you're running for local office or working in retail, all parents deserve access to universal childcare," said Liuba Grechen Shirley, Founder and CEO of Vote Mama Foundation. "However, our political leaders—often wealthy, white, and male—have failed to champion policies that benefit all our families, including universal childcare, a living wage and paid family leave. Today, women and especially women of color are bearing the brunt of this negligence. Enough is enough."
"Imagine if not one potential candidate at any level of our government had to consider the cost of childcare in weighing their decision to run for office. We are working to break down the institutional barriers to empower a diverse pipeline of working mothers to run for office and win. By making Campaign Funds for Childcare a priority, we have the opportunity to transform the political landscape."
The organization also released a new report, Campaign Funds for Childcare: Breaking Barriers for Moms to Run for Office. It offers insight into the potential impact of similar legislation across all 50 states, including how access to childcare is often a barrier to parents running for office and how passing Campaign Finds for Childcare legislation will help build a more diverse body of local leaders.
In 2018, Grechen Shirley petitioned the Federal Election Commission and became the first woman to receive federal approval to spend campaign funds on childcare. The decision was unanimously approved and received bipartisan support. However, the ruling only applies to those running for federal office, not state or local office.
Since the 2018 decision, 51 federal candidates have used campaign funds to pay for childcare, including mothers and fathers, Democrats and Republicans, and congressional and presidential candidates. According to the Vote Mama Foundation's report, in both 2018 and 2020, more than 73% of funds were spent by female candidates. Consider this: women made up just 29% of all U.S. House candidates and 24% of U.S. Senate candidates in 2020.
Legislation of this kind would clearly benefit all political parties, though it would especially help level the playing field for women.
In our 2021 State of Motherhood annual survey, we found that 92% of mothers support legislative action to increase support for childcare and/or parental leave.
85% of mothers say they would support or vote for a political candidate who supported childcare legislation that did more to actively support mothers, regardless of that candidate's party affiliation.
These aren't partisan issues—they affect everyone, including the very people who want to run for office and make real change in their communities.
"Using campaign funds for childcare is unfortunately not an option for every mom who wants to run for office" said U.S. Representative Nikema Williams (GA-05). "Now I have an obligation in Congress to break down barriers that prevent moms from running for office and create a country that empowers women to have the successes they want, not what society thinks they should have. Our government will be stronger with more moms in office, and I'm grateful for the work that Vote Mama Foundation does to make that vision a reality."
Representative Williams is right: our government will be stronger with more moms in office. We know that when mamas thrive, families and communities thrive.