NEW YORK – When Donald Trump vowed this week to make child care more accessible and affordable, it was just the second time during his White House campaign that he’s talked about an issue that affects millions of working Americans with young children.
The first came months ago in Iowa, when the eventual Republican nominee touted his own record as a business owner during a candidate Q&A, telling voters he provided on-site child-care service for his employees.
There is no evidence, however, that any such programs exist.
The billionaire real estate mogul, who previously voiced his opposition to government-funded universal pre-K programs, said in Newton, Iowa, in November 2015 that he had visited many companies that offered workers on-site child-care centers – and added that he offered such programs himself.
“You know, it’s not expensive for a company to do it. You need one person or two people, and you need some blocks, and you need some swings and some toys,” Trump said. “It’s not an expensive thing, and I do it all over. And I get great people because of it. Because it’s a problem with a lot of other companies.”
Trump pointed specifically to two programs: “They call ‘em Trump Kids. Another one calls it Trumpeteers, if you can believe it. I have ‘em. I actually have ‘em, because I have a lot of different businesses.”
Trump went on to describe “a room that’s a quarter of the size of this. And they have all sorts of – you know, it’s beautiful – they have a lot of children there, and we take care of them. And the parent when they leave the job – usually in my case it’s clubs or hotels – when they leave the job, they pick up their child and their child is totally safe.”
“They even come in during the day during lunch to see their child. It really works out well,” he said.
But the two programs Trump cited – “Trump Kids” and “Trumpeteers” – are programs catering to patrons of Trump’s hotels and golf club. They are not for Trump’s employees, according to staff at Trump’s hotels and clubs across the country.
“Trump Kids” is described on the Trump Hotel Collection website as “a special travel program designed to help make your next family vacation a big hit.” Its offerings include “kid-friendly amenities like kiddie cocktails, coloring books and no-tear bath amenities.”
“The Trumpeteer Program” is described on the website of Trump National Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, as “a program created specifically for our youngest members, ages three to twelve, which offers daily and evening child care, monthly newsletters and weekly events!”
When asked about on-site child care, employees at Trump’s hotels and clubs across the country expressed confusion and explained the two programs are for guests and members only.
“No, there’s no child care,” said Maria Jaramillo, 36, a housekeeper at Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, where workers have been pushing Trump to sign a union contract.
Jaramillo is a mother of four children who has worked at the hotel for nearly eight years.
“It would make it much more easy to take our kids to day care at work,” she said and laughed when told of Trump’s comments from Iowa about child care. “If they have child care, at least they should tell us.”
A collection of Trump employee handbooks makes no mention of child care. The online Trump Hotels “employee benefits” section lists health care, tuition reimbursement, paid time off, complimentary golf and an internet cafi, but no on-site child care services.
In New York, where the Trump Organization is based, the city’s health department database of child care centers has no record of any licensed facilities at any of Trump’s properties, aside from a private school that leases space at 40 Wall Street.
Asked directly whether Trump’s businesses offered child care to employees, his presidential campaign responded with a statement from Jill Martin, vice president and assistant general counsel at the Trump Organization.
“The Trump Organization is very proud of the family-friendly environment it fosters throughout its portfolio,” she said. “The policies and practices allowing employees to enjoy a healthy work-life balance vary from property to property. We take an individualized approach to helping employees manage family and work responsibilities.”
The campaign did not respond to follow up questions, or agree to make Martin available for an interview.
Trump on Monday proposed new tax exemptions for child care as part of what his aides say will be a larger push to make child care more accessible and affordable to working-class families. Child care is a top expense for many families, surpassing the cost of college and even housing in many states.
“They’re suffering, they’re suffering,” Trump said. “We’re going to get them this much-needed relief.”
Trump has credited his embrace of the issue to his daughter Ivanka, who vouched for her father’s treatment of his employees at the Republican National Convention last month. “When a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out,” she said.
The new policy is a departure from Trump’s comments on the issue during the GOP primaries. In an interview with Fox News Business in October 2015, Trump expressed skepticism about paid family leave and said he opposed the idea of free pre-K.
“Well, I don’t like it, because eventually you’re going to have to raise everybody’s taxes,” he said. “There is no such thing as free.”
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