Insisting parents should not have to choose between their jobs and their children, President Clinton on Wednesday proposed what he deemed a record investment in child care - $22 billion to make care more affordable, accessible and safe. “There is no more important job than raising a child,” Clinton said. But as more and more parents work out of choice or necessity, he lamented the nation has failed to help them.
“We know the government cannot raise or love a child, but that is not what we’re supposed to do,” Clinton said after entering the White House East Room with a group of young children. “What the government is supposed to do is to help to create the conditions and give people the tools that will enable them to raise and love their children while successfully participating in the American workplace.”
Clinton is asking Congress for $21.7 billion over five years - “the single largest national commitment to child care in the history of the United States” - to help parents and businesses pay for care, to improve the quality of care, to expand Head Start and to increase after-school care.
Child-care advocates said the proposal, if enacted, would be a breakthrough in how the nation treats working parents and their children.
“It is an amazing stride forward,” said Matthew Melmed, of Zero to Three, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., that works on behalf of infants and toddlers. “It squarely puts the federal government in the role of helping parents.”
Under the proposal, Clinton would spend $7.5 billion to double to 2 million the number of children whose low-income parents receive child-care subsidies under a block grant to the states.
Another $5.2 billion would go to increase tax credits to 3 million working families who earn less than $60,000 a year. They would receive an average of $358 more for child care than they do under existing tax credits, according to White House officials.
Families earning $50,000 or less could claim half their child-care costs, up to $2,400 for one child and $4,800 for two or more children. Families earning up to $60,000 could claim varying percentages of the cost, depending on their income. And those earning more, including the nation’s wealthiest families, could claim 20 percent of their costs, as they do now.
The proposal would eliminate federal taxes for most families with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level - $35,000 for a family of four - that claim the maximum child-care expenses.
In addition, Clinton would provide an incentive for businesses to provide child-care services, with a tax credit for 25 percent of their costs, up to $150,000 a year.
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