The Moral and Economic Common Sense of Recovery Building Back Better — Voice of San Diego

Ana Canales, a childminder in Chula Vista, spoke to Voice of San Diego on December 10, 2020 about her experience working in child care during the pandemic. To ensure the safety of the children she watches over, Canales would clean all toys and put plastic covers on them to prevent the spread of COVID-19. / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

The Build Back Better Act had the opportunity to be “the New Deal” of our time. The legislation would have so transformed the realities of millions of working families that the positive effects would have been felt for generations.

However, as a package, it now appears to be dead in the water because of lawmakers like Senator Manchin of West Virginia. Scary as it sounds, now is the time to save the social services we know will have the biggest impact on children and families in San Diego: investing in child care and expanding credit. child tax.

When it comes to child care in San Diego County, the system is collapsing around us. We were in crisis before the pandemic – think of a 90% deficit in infant and toddler care – but now it’s disastrous. Due to COVID and staffing shortages, some child care centers have had to drop from more than 20 in-person sites to less than five due to quarantines. But none of this should come as a surprise.

After all, here in San Diego County, we know all too well the consequences of an underfunded child care system. Families pay more than $20,000 a year for infant care, more than double the annual tuition at San Diego State University. San Diego is also experiencing disproportionately low female labor force participation compared to other similar counties (a “cession” that has only accelerated with COVID). A legacy of child care providers who bear the burden of what it really costs to care for children ages 0-5, striving to pay their educators according to the importance of their work. Our local economy reflects all of these struggles.

What if the government made substantial investments to help working families with childcare, both by increasing subsidies for parents’ choice vouchers in a mixed delivery system and by increasing caregiver compensation? With the ability to find and pay for the child care that works best for them, parents could work more – if they choose – or in better-paying jobs, ultimately earning more income. This equates to more financial stability and educational opportunities, which are net benefits to our economy.

With increased funding for care, children are also likely to receive better quality early care and learning. With 90% of brain development occurring before the age of five and the resounding positive impacts of exceptional early care and learning, quality is key. If care providers are fairly compensated and aren’t short of their own basic needs – or overstretched due to a workforce crisis – they have more bandwidth and capacity to serve themselves. look after young people in their care.

Many of these same benefits parallel the extension of a child tax credit, providing families with more funds to cover the additional costs associated with raising a child, which families of San Diego need more than ever.

In our region, more than 200,000 children live in families whose poverty line is equal to or less than 200%, or $53,000 per year for a family of four. Whole neighborhoods know more than 80-90% of families struggling to make ends meet. It is our collective moral failure for every child growing up in hunger, housing insecurity, unpredictable child care and expensive health care. It is also detrimental to all of society if families are kept in cycles of poverty. Children living in poverty face increasing barriers to achieving fulfilling and rewarding adult lives. And that has an impact on what the future of San Diego will look like.

Knowing all these benefits, what are we waiting for?

Senators like Manchin, who have come out against the Build Back Better Act, say their biggest complaints are that it’s too expensive and that the bill’s costs are hidden. If anything, the cost is clear. It is the expense of inaction that is confusing.

The researchers found that child poverty costs the United States more than $1 trillion a year, or about 5.4% of GDP. Conversely, research shows that for every dollar invested in children, the government saves between $4 and $9 in the future. For fiscal conservatives, the return on investment should be a no-brainer.

If we just look at the part of the Build Back Better Act that would have gone to the child tax credit – about $130 billion – and look at the savings that this investment would have on the future, it’s somewhere between 520 billion dollars and $1.1 trillion in savings. . Imagine what gaining, rather than losing, $1 trillion a year would do for children and families.

The Build Back Better Act would have been the best-case scenario for children and families in San Diego. Instead, the expanded Child Tax Credit was allowed to expire, sending millions of children back into the experience of poverty. It was a conscious political decision. The next step is to save what we can from legislation, so that we don’t see this as a time when we could have made a difference in the lives of children and have not.

About Franklin Bailey

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