WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Tuesday that directs federal agencies to lower costs of family care by any means necessary, leveraging their funding mechanisms to require more and better options from private companies.
Focused only on exploring potential regulation changes, the order does not directly change policy for the vast array of federal funding programs.
Biden, who said the order would not require new spending, called it the “most comprehensive set of actions any administration has taken to date” for making family care more affordable.
“In the United States of America, no one should have to choose between caring for the parents who raised them, the children who depend on them or the paycheck they rely on to pay for both,” he said.
The order directs agencies to consider lowering co-payments for families benefiting from the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, making care on military bases more affordable, and adopting policy changes to support federal workers. Another objective is for agencies to determine which grant programs can support child and long-term care for workers on federal projects, and if applicants can be required to expand access for their workers.
Child care costs have increased 26% in the past 10 years, and more than 200% in the last 30 years, the White House emphasized Tuesday. For long-term care of the elderly or people with disabilities, the cost has risen 40% in the past decade.
“The reality is that too many families are struggling to access the affordable, high-quality care they need,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing Tuesday.
The order seeks to make progress on cost-reduction measures while Congress considers Biden’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024, which includes funding for child care, preschool and long-term care. Similar proposals as part of the Build Back Better Act did not clear Congress.
The order provides more than 50 directives to nearly all the cabinet-level agencies, but many of the key proposals go through the Department of Health and Human Services.
HHS is specifically directed to find ways to reduce or eliminate copayments for child care.
The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the federal workforce, is directed to review its policies on child care subsidies and consider expanding them while also growing services.
Part of the proposal focuses on veterans and active duty military by directing the Department of Defense to improve affordability on bases and telling the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve access to home-based care.
Meanwhile, Biden hopes to find ways for HHS to increase pay and benefits for early childhood educators, particularly those who work at preschools and kindergartens or with Head Start, the federal program that offers an array of services to low-income children and families. HHS is also directed to revise regulations to improve the quality of home care jobs.
Biden will discuss the proposals in an address from the White House this afternoon.Follow @TheNolanStout
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