- President Biden has signed an executive order with 50 instructions to federal agencies to support caregiving.
- The order, which does not include new funding, asks federal departments to find ways to reduce costs for families and boost pay for caregivers.
- Biden’s order aims to make care for children, elderly, and disabled people more affordable, though it is much less ambitious than the massive federal support for child care he proposed in 2021.
President Joe Biden has taken steps—albeit limited ones—to make care for children, disabled people, and the elderly more affordable and easier to get, as well as boost pay for workers in those fields.
That’s the goal of an executive order Biden signed Tuesday, which issues 50 directives to federal agencies, all designed to expand the availability and affordability of care services. The executive order is far less ambitious than the multibillion-dollar programs he proposed in 2021. However, unlike the child care subsidies proposed in the Build Back Better bill, Biden’s latest actions can be executed without the approval of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“The cost of care is too high” Biden said in a speech at the White House. “Family members are too often forced to leave their own good jobs behind to stay home to be Mom and Dad…. No one should have to choose between caring for the parents who raised them, the children who depend on them, or the paycheck they rely on to take care of both.”
Care costs, especially for children, are a growing burden on household budgets. Data from the Department of Labor shows as of 2018 (the most recent information available), average childcare costs consumed between $5,357 and $17,171 a year, or 8% and 19.3% of typical household income per child, depending on the location and age of the child.
Childcare costs have risen 26% over the past 10 years, and the cost of long-term care for the elderly and people with disabilities is up 40% over the same time, according to the White House.
Biden’s order included directives for federal agencies to:
- Lower co-payments for people enrolled in existing subsidized childcare programs funded by the federal government.
- Make child care on military installations more affordable.
- Expand child care for federal employees.
- Look for ways to require companies seeking federal funds to expand caregiving access for their workers. This would be similar to how the CHIPS Act, which subsidizes computer chip factories and required businesses that took the federal funds to make affordable child care available for all their employees.
- Expand home-based care for veterans through the Veterans Administration.
- Boost pay for Head Start teachers and staff.
While the reforms announced Tuesday are not as sweeping as what could be done with the approval of Congress, and the specifics of how they will benefit families will depend on how federal agencies carry them out, they are a step in the right direction, said Anne Hedgpeth, chief of policy and advocacy at Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit group that advocates for greater investment in child care.
“It's welcome news to see the Biden administration continue to prioritize child care,” Hedgepeth said. “We see and hear every day from parents whose childcare prices are out of reach, and childcare providers who are struggling to make ends meet because compensation is so low and programs operate on such slim margins. There's some really great steps in here that we help agencies will take to heart that could make a difference for a lot of people.”