Building Back Better for Women and Families

We cannot expect the United States to fully recover if women are being left behind. 

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (center) and colleagues at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the Build Back Better plan. (Instagram)

Amid the fight for America’s independence, Abigail Adams famously wrote to her husband John Adams, “Remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” Since being elected, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have never wavered their commitment to advancing gender equity—a feat our second first lady would be proud of. Now, with the president’s newly-announced Build Back Better Framework, we are making historic, transformational investments in women and families across the country. 

President Biden understands how COVID-19 has devastated our country, and more specifically, women. It is women who have borne the brunt of this crisis. Nearly two million women have left the workforce amid the pandemic, and women’s labor force participation is at its lowest since 1988. For far too many, childcare is out of reach, elder care has become too expensive, and working mothers are forced to choose between their paycheck and caring for their loved ones.

Let me be clear: We cannot expect the United States to fully recover if women are being left behind. 

With the president’s historic Build Back Better Framework, we’re unlocking the full economic potential of working parents through investments in universal pre-K, childcare, elder care and the child tax credit.

We’re expanding access to free, high-quality preschool for more than six million children, because we know that early education makes all the difference in the success of our children’s future and our ability to compete on a global scale.

We’re making childcare affordable and accessible for mothers and fathers so no family has to pay more than seven percent of their income for this much-needed care. This will be life-changing for parents in my district in Michigan who have told me directly that childcare costs more than their home mortgage. That is the reality for so many hard-working American families, and that is the reality the Build Back Better Framework will change. 

When we talk about childcare and home care workers, whose workforce is disproportionately women of color, they’re getting paid poverty-level wages for essential work and don’t have the resources or staff to keep up with the demand. The median wage for women who are childcare workers falls below a living wage and leaves around one in six women living below the poverty line while three-quarters of home care workers earn less than the living wage and one in eight lives in poverty.

In 2021, median annual wages for childcare workers were $25,460—or $12.24 an hour. (Stephan Geyer / Flickr)

The president’s agenda will boost the compensation of childcare workers to at least $15 an hour and help close the gender pay gap. In addition to these major investments, the Build Back Better Framework will extend the expanded Child Tax Credit for more than 35 million American households. We’ve seen this policy in action already as it passed in the American Rescue Plan, and families have been receiving these monthly payments since July and will continue on through December. This has been a game changer as it’s helping put food on the table, pay rent and meet the needs of households.  

As the co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus and second vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, the needs and priorities of women, children, Black Americans and other communities of color are always on the top of my mind. So, I couldn’t agree more with President Biden when he calls the Build Back Better Framework a once-in-a-generation investment in the American people. It’s one that we haven’t seen since President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal nearly 90 years ago. We’re lifting women out of poverty, educating our children and lowering costs. This agenda is about who we are as a country and the values we represent.

Nearing this historic change, I’d like to add to Abigail Adams’s quote and say, “Remember the ladies—and families too.” So as we Build Back Better, let’s Build Back Better with women and families front and center.

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U.S. Representative Brenda L. Lawrence represents Michigan’s 14th Congressional District. She serves as the co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus and 2nd vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.