Family policies being decided at the federal level now will have a major effect on Americans for years to come.

This should be a bipartisan effort. There are plenty of Republicans and Democrats alike who understand how child tax credits, support for child care centers and universal preschool could have a huge positive effect on their constituents — not just families with young children, but also on business owners who depend on a strong workforce.

The lack of affordable child care and the serious shortage of child care in general are keeping parents out of the workforce, discouraging couples from having children and hurting the economy. This is a long-standing problem exacerbated by the pandemic.

When parents can find and afford quality child care and preschool for their children, they are free to work or continue their education and job training.

Child tax credits for high-income families are unnecessary and expensive, but we believe child tax credits for low- and middle-income working parents to spend as they please on the best child care they can find would drive the market to create more quality child care options (both home- and center-based), and raise wages for child care providers.

The greatest challenge for most rural communities is the demand for child care far exceeds the supply. Building child care centers is expensive because of the specific needs of infants, toddlers and preschoolers and often onerous state regulations that govern child care facilities.

Federal grants to communities to build and maintain child care centers (which then could be operated by nonprofit organizations or cooperatives, with local control) would go a long way to shrink the child care shortage.

A recent analysis shows universal preschool for 4-year-olds will save the existing taxpayer-funded K-12 public education system more than $83 billion per year. It’s clear that having young children spend three or four hours a day at a high-quality preschool — learning how to follow instructions, manage their emotions and work and play with others— means they will be ready to learn in kindergarten. The K-12 savings come from reduced need for special education and grade repetition.

We want to see Republicans and Democrats working together to allow parents to have choices about child care and preschool, to support low- and middle-income families for whom child care and preschool is currently a significant economic burden, and to encourage adults to work.

Federal policies that support marriage, children and the economy are within reach.

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