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Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, earlier this month, I introduced the Ensuring Child Care for Working Families Act to help low-income workers stay in the workforce. My bill creates a guarantee of Federal child care assistance for children up to the age of 13 in families with incomes up to 200 percent of the Federal poverty level. This program would be matched with State funds and administered by the State.
Low-income families and single parents have been bearing the brunt of this recession. They want to work, but often can't afford reliable and appropriate child care, so they are forced to either leave their jobs or to leave their kids in unhealthy or dangerous environments. For many poor people, there simply are no better options.
In the 1990s, Federal assistance for child care programs was established to address this very problem. It was created to help low-income families transition from welfare to paychecks. Over the years, funding for this program has dwindled, despite growing demand. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the TANF
legislation, was passed in 1996 to ``end welfare as we know it.'' But we failed to provide the necessary support services to enable poor working families to succeed. One of those services is high-quality child care.
Today, only one of six children eligible for Federal child assistance receives it. Twenty-two States have waiting lists for child care. And families in 37 States were in worse circumstances in February of 2011 than they were in February of 2010 as the child care waiting list continues to grow, copayments rise, eligibility tightens, and reimbursement rates stagnate.
After three decades of wage stagnation in this country, with paychecks failing to keep up with the cost of health care, housing, and education, child care has become an unaffordable necessity for too many Americans.
A related problem that we also must acknowledge is the gender wage gap. Women only earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the Census Bureau. Yet two-thirds of the women are now either the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in their family. So when there are wage gaps, entire families suffer. That means less money for food on the table and everything else that a family needs to survive.
Two days ago, Senate Republicans blocked a bill introduced by Senator Barbara Mikulski that would strengthen the Fair Labor Standards Act's protections against pay inequities based on gender. As President Obama said, Republicans have once again put ``partisan politics ahead of women and families.'' This is wrong. Republican Senators ought to explain to their constituents why they did not vote for Senator Mikulski's bill.
Let me be very clear: equal pay for equal work isn't just a woman's issue--it's a family issue. For the millions of American women whose families depend on their earnings, reliable child care is vital.
It's time to level the playing field for working women. I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 5188 so that all parents, particularly working women, have the child care they need to stay on the job.
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