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Biden Signs Executive Order Expanding Access to Dependent Care Aid as He Gears Up for 2024 Bid

Ariane Kunze | The Columbian via AP
  • President Joe Biden signed an executive order that aims to expand access to care for children and elderly and disabled Americans.
  • The cost for care for older people and those with disabilities has spiked 40% in the past decade. During that time, the cost of child care has climbed 26%.
  • The move comes as the White House faces steep opposition in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to many social-spending proposals.
  • The White House has long maintained that Biden's social-policy agenda is highly popular. A second term in office could mean a renewed focus on pushing through many of the promises he was unable to pass under his ambitious Build Back Better agenda — even while Democrats held both chambers of Congress.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Tuesday that aims to expand access to care for children, the elderly and disabled Americans, signaling the importance of the issue as he prepares to run for a second term.

In more than 50 executive actions, Biden is asking nearly every federal agency to expand care options without new spending. He has long pushed to ease the burden of care costs, but Congress has stifled those efforts during his first term.

"We're using the power of the federal government to get companies to do what's good for workers and, I might add, good for business as well," Biden said, speaking from the Rose Garden before signing. "And folks, care workers deserve to make a decent living and that's a fight I'm willing to have."

The White House faces steep opposition to many of the social-spending proposals in the Republican-controlled House. Biden asked Congress in his budget proposal last month for $750 billion in funding over the next decade for care, a variation of a proposal he made on the campaign trail to create a "21st Century Caregiving and Education Workforce."

The administration failed to pass a dramatic reimagining of dependent care during Biden's first two years in office, as several Democrats opposed the new taxes and spending needed for it. The White House, congressional Democrats and advocates said the plans would provide an economic boost and create jobs because it would allow employees who have dependents more flexibility to work.

In a call with reporters Monday previewing the executive action, a senior administration official said Biden is focused on doing everything he can to improve access on his own.

"This is a case where the president is working hard on the investment angle, has worked hard with Congress, that has not worked out quite as well," the official said.

The cost of care for older people and those with disabilities has spiked 40% in the last decade, according to White House data. During that time, the cost of child care has climbed 26%; it has spiked more than 200% in the past 30 years.

The White House pointed to data from Boston Consulting Group that estimates economic output could drop $290 billion a year beginning in 2030 if the care pitfalls are not patched.

Even before the pandemic in 2019, 76% of parents reported struggling to access affordable, dependable care, the White House said.

By going forward without congressional action, Biden is signaling the importance of the issue to him ahead of an expected reelection bid. The White House has long maintained that Biden's social-policy agenda is highly popular with the American public despite conservative gripes over costs.

A second term in office could mean a renewed focus on pushing through many of the promises he was unable to pass under his ambitious Build Back Better agenda — even while Democrats held both chambers of Congress. While the Democratic-controlled Congress pushed pieces of his broad social-spending proposal, it cut an ambitious child-care program from it, among other policies.

"Too many families are struggling to afford or access high-quality care, and too many care workers are struggling to make a living doing this critically important work," Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice said on the call. "The president's not going to wait to take action to address our nation's care crisis."

In his executive order, Biden asked Cabinet-level agencies to flag grant programs that can be used to fund care for children and long-term care for workers on federal projects. The plan also outlines ways to improve access to in-home care for veterans, promote care worker unionization, increase pay for early childhood educators and improve job quality for caregiving workers.

The White House is also mulling requiring companies seeking federal funds for job creation to provide expanded access to care benefits for their workers. The Commerce Department in March mandated that companies seeking substantial funds from the $52 billion semiconductor manufacturing and research program to identify how they will assist their workforce in accessing child care.

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