Moms First successfully petition for childcare to be addressed during the first presidential debate

It’s an election year, and one of the largest hot topic issues for parents is the surging cost of childcare. Nonprofit Moms First, founded by activist Reshma Saujani, vocalized the importance of the childcare crisis to voters by starting a petition urging CNN to address the problem during the first presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, which aired on Thursday, June 27.

“The extreme cost of child care is crushing moms all over the country,” states the petition, which received 15,000 signatures prior to the debate. “Child care for two children costs more than rent in every U.S. state. 50% of Americans live in child care deserts. And 59% of parents with young kids have been forced to reduce their work hours or quit their jobs due to the exorbitant expenses of child care.”

Saujani hand-delivered the petition to CNN’s studios, and the network took it to heart. Near the end of the debate, moderator Jake Tapper addressed the fact that many Americans cannot afford childcare and asked Trump what he’d do to make it more affordable.

Instead of answering the question, the former president took his two minutes of allotted time to trash talk his opponent. When it was Biden’s turn to respond, he spent the first half of his time clapping back at Trump before answering the actual question. But he did, at least, address it. “We should significantly increase the childcare tax credit; we should significantly increase the availability of [parents] to go back to work; and we should encourage businesses to have childcare facilities,” President Biden said before he was cut off due to time. Trump was given another chance to answer the question and again dismissed it entirely.

Before the question was asked, Biden brought up childcare costs while discussing the progress he’s made for the Black community during his first term as president. “The choice that Black families have to make relative to child care is incredibly difficult,” he said. “When we did the first piece of major legislation that passed, I was able to reduce Black child care costs—I cut them in half. We gotta make sure we provide for childcare costs because when you provide enough childcare protections, you’re increasing economic growth because more people could be in the job market.”

The legislation that he’s referring to is an Executive Order on Care that strengthens the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, which supports more than a million children and their families with monthly child care assistance. Vice President Kamala Harris announced the landmark legislation in March, stating that it will lower childcare costs for more than 100,000 families. 

Biden also shared his plans to lower childcare costs on X (formerly Twitter) ahead of the debate, which include “guaranteeing affordable child care and pre-K from birth until kindergarten, ensuring most families pay less than $10 per day for child care, [and] providing universal free preschool for America’s four-year-olds.” 

Saujani spoke with Motherly about successfully petitioning for child care to be addressed during the debate and how the question was handled. “For too long, child care has been seen as a personal issue that moms must solve on their own—not as an economic issue that is required for women to work. The reality is, the cost of child care— the cost of motherhood—has become untenable. And last night, CNN made it clear that the voices of moms across the country matter by asking the candidates about their plan to address child care costs,”she said. “Moms First and the 15,000 moms who signed our petition successfully elevated child care to the presidential debate stage. Because no family should be forced into debt to pay for child care.”

“However, when asked directly about their plans to lower child care costs, both candidates spent the majority of the time bickering and only President Biden briefly addressed the question—leaving millions of moms and families out to dry,” she added. “Moms First is disappointed that our presidential candidates failed to acknowledge the seriousness of our child care crisis and its impact on American mothers. As candidates vie for votes this election season, they should not underestimate the power of moms. We are a powerful constituency that cannot be ignored. And we deserve real, substantive solutions to this crisis.”

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