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Lawmakers propose bill to help ease child care costs for families

Lawmakers in Washington have proposed solutions like paid leave and child care subsidies to ease financial pressure on families.
Lawmakers propose bill to help ease child care costs for families
Posted at 5:53 PM, Mar 12, 2024

If it was an option, Destinee Stewart would be a stay-at-home mom.

"I feel like it's unheard of. I feel like it's just on TV," Stewart said.

For her family, it's just not financially feasible.

Stewart and her husband live in Maryland with their two kids, aged 12 and 3. She is a former teacher who now runs a child care business out of her home, and tutors on the side.

Twenty-six percent of moms in the U.S. stay at home full-time, according to the latest data. That's down 2% since the late 1980s — but it might not reflect how many moms would prefer to stay home.

"Every time we ask moms what their ideal situation is, the top answer is not full-time job. The top answer is part-time job, and a significant share of them actually say that they prefer to stay at home," said Wendy Wang, director of research at the Institute for Family Studies.

Wang's research suggests there isn't a "one size fits all" approach to raising kids — especially before they're of school age. In one of her studies, 29% of respondents preferred for the mom to stay at home full-time and 14% preferred for the mom to work part-time.

"The whole policy environment does not really support women to stay at home and care for their kids," Wang said. 

A proposed bill in Congress gives families more options. Republican senators J.D. Vance and Marco Rubio introduced the Fairness for Stay-At-Home Parents Act, in hopes of relieving the financial strain on parents who want to stay home.

"A lot of stay-at-home parents are penalized. That's a mistake and it's something we can fix," said Sen. Vance.

The proposed bill adds a provision to the Family and Medical Leave Act to prevent employers from taking back health care premiums they paid during an employee's leave, if they don't return to their job. It's intended to protect families from expensive hospital bills after childbirth — which on average, costs $19,000 — as they navigate all the other costs associated with a newborn.

"You have people come home from the hospital with $20,000 of unexpected medical bills because they chose the wrong anesthesiologist. It's crazy to think that you would expect a mom who's minutes away from giving birth to a baby to think about, 'Well, is this anesthesiologist in network or out of network?'" Vance said. 

While Senator Vance says this bill has bipartisan support, he notes that Congress is as divided as ever and is unsure when — or if — this bill will succeed. 

SEE MORE: Rising child care costs creating dilemma for working parents

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