Chairman Neal Opening Statement at Hearing on Paid Leave, Child Care, and an Economy that Failed Women
Apr 21, 2021
(As prepared for delivery)
Today, we have the privilege of hearing directly from 5 women from across the country who are living proof that our economy is not built to set working mothers up for success and I want them to do the talking at this hearing.
For far too long we’ve treated child care and caregiving as optional, rather than as basic necessities. Instead of restructuring work in a way that is sustainable for all Americans, we’ve essentially told women “good luck fending for yourselves.”
And the COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse.
Our failure to recognize basic caregiving obligations in the U.S. has driven millions of women out of the workforce since last March, with a majority of those being women of color. Over a year later, many have yet to return, undoing decades of progress toward gender equity in the labor market.
We know that child care was hard to find even before the pandemic, but estimates suggest that over 4 million spots could now be permanently gone. The industry was already riddled with high staff turnover and built on the backs of underpaid women of color.
And with regard to paid leave, the United States is the only industrialized nation with no paid maternity leave. This is embarrassing and it is unacceptable. We are working parents to the bone, wasting their talents, and putting our country at a competitive disadvantage.
These issues are not new to the Ways and Means Committee. We were able to take modest steps to address them in the American Rescue Plan Act, but there is still so much more to do.
Women are already telling us what they need: paid family and medical leave and child care that they can count on. That’s why I felt so strongly that for this hearing, we needed to hear directly from working women. We need to talk to them instead of talking about them.
And after we listen to their stories, we need to act.
The questions that should guide our action are: What do we value, and who should be able to fully participate in our economy? And how can we aid in our recovery to not only return to pre-pandemic levels of employment, but to dismantle the barriers to workforce participation that have stifled women for decades? I expect we will hear clear and resounding answers to these questions today.
With that, I will recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Brady, for an opening statement.