By Megan Leonhardt, featuring Carrie Lukas, president of Independent Women’s Forum

Over a year after daycares, preschools and child-care centers started reopening, U.S. parents and providers are still struggling to find a new normal.

More support is needed

Many parents and providers continue to struggle as they wait for help. Beyond emergency relief, Perez says the U.S. needs to make fundamental changes to the child-care system. She supports several of the proposals President Joe Biden outlined in his American Families Plan, including universal pre-K, caps on family child-care expenditures and increasing wages for child-care workers.

Biden’s $1.8 trillion proposal, however, hasn’t received much traction in Congress yet, largely due to the hefty price tag. There are also concerns about unintended consequences of Biden’s plan, including the fact that it would increase the nation’s debt substantially, according to Rachel Greszler, a Brookings research fellow, and Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women’s Forum.

Not all of the support needs to come from the government — employers can also help. Working mothers are about 32% less likely to leave their job if they have access to flexible, remote work arrangements, a recent survey from Catalyst found.

Many Americans want to see change happen: More than 6 out of 10 support increasing child-care availability; instating free, universal pre-kindergarten; and providing child-care assistance to middle-class families, according to a June poll of more than 3,000 voters and likely voters sponsored by Community Change Action and conducted by Lake Research Partners. 

“Most parents have had at least days — if not much longer stretches — when it was tiring or hard to be both professionally successful and a parent. I am no exception, and I have memories of things like giving a speech while my infant ate Cheerios at my foot,” Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., tells CNBC Make It. 

She believes parents and policymakers need to start thinking about child-care benefits and paid family leave as “universal benefits.” “We’re not debating providing better child-care support just for people with kids — we’re doing it for our economy,” Porter says. 

“If we don’t invest in these things, it will hold back our economy. And to be clear, it has been holding back our economy for decades,” she adds. “Who out there doesn’t want our country to have a strong, stable economy that’s globally competitive? To do that, we have to make some investments in people who do the work and that includes women and parents and others who care for children.”

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