Senator Murray Chairs Hearing on President’s Funding Requests, Underscores Need to Act on Request to Tackle Growing Child Care Crisis
Senator Murray: “If we don’t act soon, the child care crisis is going to keep getting worse—and it will continue hurting our economy in the process.”
Senator Murray: “The recent partisan proposal reviving Trump’s border wall, closing our doors on many asylum seekers, and drastically rewriting immigration laws is not going anywhere …. I hope that—instead of wasting time on partisan nonstarters—we can work together on common-sense, bipartisan solutions.”
***WATCH: Senator Murray’s opening remarks***
Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, gaveled in a hearing on the President’s supplemental funding requests for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
In her opening remarks, Senator Murray underscored how the growing child care crisis is hurting families and having ripple effects in local economies across the country. She noted that child care is a top concern for families and a top economic challenge, and Congress must act on the President’s supplemental funding request to extend vital stabilization funds that have been a lifeline for families and our economy over the last few years—but expired on September 30.
“You can’t have an economy that works for working families without a strong child care system and right now, our child care system is just plain broken. I fought hard to create the child care stabilization program that supported 220,000 child care providers, and nearly 10 million kids, and prevented thousands of programs from closing their doors,” Senator Murray said in her opening remarks. “But that funding recently expired, and our child care system is once again hanging on by a thread. If we don’t act soon, the child care crisis is going to keep getting worse—and it will continue hurting our economy in the process.”
A report released yesterday by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) found that the child care stabilization program Senator Murray authored saved families with young children who rely on paid child care about $1,250 per child per year and helped hundreds of thousands of women with children enter or rejoin the workforce more quickly. The program helped 220,000 child care providers keep their doors open and reached 96% of counties nationwide—helping to protect child care for as many as 10 million kids nationwide. But now that the funding has expired, the sector is once again on the brink—with terrible consequences for families and communities nationwide.
“Right now, tens of thousands of Americans are being forced to miss work because they can’t get the child care they need,” continued Senator Murray. “Make no mistake: that’s hurting businesses and our entire economy, and since stabilization funds have run dry, this problem will only continue getting worse unless we take action. We are talking about even greater damage to our economy—billions in lost wages, revenue, and growth.”
Senator Murray asked Secretary Becerra about what’s at risk if Congress fails to provide additional funding. In response, he said:
“If we don’t have those stabilization funds, we destabilize not just families across America but our economy. Because there will be people who have to leave the workforce, because they'll have to stay home to care for their kids. There are small businesses—the vast majority of our child care programs are small businesses—they will go under. There are people who are already telling us that they relied on the stabilization funds to be able to increase wages for their workers so that they wouldn’t leave. Remember, they’re competing against the fast food shops—the Walmarts of the world—who pay more in many cases than they do. They were able to increase wages a bit to try to keep those workers, who prefer to care for kids. It would be devastating. There is no doubt that Americans would lose not only income, but opportunities for their kids. And we would lose a lot of small businesses in America.
Senator Murray emphasized that the child care crisis is a problem hurting families and businesses in every part of the country and one that Congress must take additional action with supplemental funding to address.
“We’ve made important bipartisan progress in strengthening annual child care funding—including in our Senate Labor-HHS bill this summer—but we’ve got to do more to meet the growing crisis, and act on the President’s request,” Senator Murray said in her opening remarks. “So to my Republican colleagues: let’s work together to address this growing economic problem in all of our states.”
At the hearing, Senator Murray made clear that Senate Republicans’ partisan and harmful immigration reform proposal is not going anywhere—and underscored her hope that members can instead work together on reasonable, bipartisan solutions to meet needs at our southern border, tackle the fentanyl crisis, and more.
“The recent partisan proposal reviving Trump’s border wall, closing our doors on many asylum seekers, and drastically rewriting immigration laws is not going anywhere,” Senator Murray noted. “I hope that—instead of wasting time on partisan nonstarters—we can work together on common-sense, bipartisan solutions to help us humanely manage encounters at the border, and process claims of noncitizens seeking protection under our nation’s asylum laws, while continuing our country’s long-tradition of welcoming people fleeing violence and persecution.”
Senator Murray asked Secretaries Becerra and Mayorkas about how President Biden’s supplemental funding request will allow their respective departments to support communities on the frontlines of the opioid crisis, stop the flow of fentanyl, and crack down on the transnational criminal organizations that traffic and produce it.
In response, Secretary Becerra said:
“There’s not a state or community in America that doesn't need more assistance to tackle the opioid crisis now driven mostly by fentanyl—some 70% of these overdoses as a result of opioids are really now driven by fentanyl. We need to do much more, they will tell you. We can help with the prevention and the treatment. Secretary Mayorkas I know will talk about the interdiction but without the help, we’re going to lose Americans. We know it, and we’re doing everything we can—from making Naloxone more available to people to save lives, but also working with those on the ground who have been saving lives from day one. We want them to have the resources they need.”
Secretary Mayorkas explained that fulfilling the supplemental funding request will significantly strengthen efforts to stop the flow of fentanyl, stating:
“It will assist us significantly in our interdiction efforts. We already have done an extraordinary job: the men and women of US Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security investigations have engaged in a number of operations. Operation Blue Lotus, Operation Artemis, which is surging our personnel in our technological resources to the ports of entry where the majority of the fentanyl is smuggled into our country. We are working with our international partners. The $1.3 billion that the supplemental request calls for will assist us with additional personnel, additional technological resources, and the ability to work with our international partners to really drive an encompassing approach to our interdiction efforts.”
Senator Murray’s full opening remarks, as delivered, are below:
“This hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee will please come to order.
“We are here today to discuss the President’s supplemental funding requests for the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Homeland Security with Secretary Becerra and Secretary Mayorkas.
“We heard last week about the interrelated challenges we are seeing across the globe and Senator Collins and I are continuing our work on a bipartisan package to support Ukraine, Israel, and our partners in the Indo-Pacific, and deliver absolutely vital humanitarian aid.
“And, as we heard last week, it is vital we do these together in one package and not break them apart—such as an Israel-only bill, like the one that the House passed last week.
“We face connected threats across many regions, and we can and should be addressing foes like Putin, and supporting allies and populations facing war and famine—all at the same time.
“But it is also important we treat the challenges we face here at home with the same urgency.
“Which is why I’m pleased that President Biden has also requested supplemental funding to keep the child care sector afloat, to help communities recovering from disasters, to fight the fentanyl crisis, address the needs at our southern border, continue affordable broadband for families, prevent a pay cut for brave wildland firefighters, and more.
“And while today’s hearing will focus on requests for HHS and DHS, I am going to continue working with my colleagues to meet all the key priorities the President has outlined.
“But I want to be clear to Republicans who think this is their chance to jam through a huge far-right wish list on immigration.
“The recent partisan proposal reviving Trump’s border wall, closed our doors on many asylum seekers, and rewrote immigration laws is not going to go anywhere.
“We need to focus on the ideas that can actually get widespread bipartisan support that address the root causes of migration—that is almost entirely absent from this proposal, and meeting the operational needs like those we are here to today to talk about. We need to focus on serious proposals.
“Now today we are here to address many of the challenges that are top-of-mind for families back in Washington state.
“I hear about the child care crisis just about everywhere I go—and I know my colleagues are hearing from parents and businesses with many of the same stories.
“Now, I have been talking about child care since my earliest days in politics, and to this day, it’s a top priority for me.
“Just last month I visited a child care center at Shoreline Community College—where I used to teach—and I heard from families firsthand about how incredibly hard it is right now.
“I want us all to remember that: you can’t have an economy that works for working families without a strong child care system and right now, our child care system is just plain broken.
“I fought hard to create the child care stabilization program that supported 220,000 child care providers, and nearly 10 million kids, and prevented thousands of programs from closing their doors.
“This funding did exactly what it was supposed to do: It stabilized the child care market. It allowed child care providers who operate on razor thin margins to retain the staff they need, avoid major price hikes for families, and keep serving kids.
“But that funding has now expired, and our child care system is once again hanging on by a thread.
“If we don’t act soon, the child care crisis is going to keep getting worse—and it will hurt our economy in the process.
“Child care providers are facing impossible choices—like: reducing pay, laying off staff, raising prices, serving fewer families, and shutting their doors because the math just doesn’t work.
“This, of course, means parents are getting squeezed even worse, as child care gets harder and harder to find and even harder to afford.
“Back in Washington state, parents in the Tri-cities spend a fifth of their income on child care.
“Right now, tens of thousands of Americans are being forced to miss work because they can’t get the child care.
“Make no mistake: that hurts businesses—and it hurts our entire economy, and since stabilization funds have run dry, this problem will only continue getting worse unless we take action.
“We are talking about even greater damage to our economy—billions in lost wages, revenue, and growth.
“We can’t let that happen.
“We’ve made important bipartisan progress in strengthening annual child care funding—including in our Senate Labor HHS bill this summer—but we’ve got to do more to meet this crisis, and act on the President’s request.
“So to my Republican colleagues: let’s work together to address this growing economic problem in all of our states.
“Of course, there are other issues that Congress needs to act on as well.
“The President has also requested additional funding to address the fentanyl crisis head-on, to meet operational requirements and needs at our southern border, and improve the USCIS processing capacity.
“And it’s important we work together, in a serious, bipartisan fashion, to address those challenges.
“We are facing significant numbers of encounters at the border each day, and seizing record amounts of fentanyl.
“Just as we did with the Fiscal Year 2024 Homeland Security bill, this Committee needs to work in a bipartisan way to address the reality that our federal agencies are dealing with on the ground.
“When it comes to the opioid crisis, I have sat down with so many people on the frontlines all across my state—first responders, health care workers, patients who are in recovery themselves, parents who don’t know what to do when their child is suffering from addiction.
“I have heard so many heavy stories that I bring with me to work every day—stories that demand action from this Congress.
“And I know every member on this dais has heard similar heartbreaking stories about the devastation of the opioid crisis.
“None of the people we represent, who are on the frontlines of this crisis, want us to play politics with their lives.
“So I hope we are all able to have a serious, respectful conversation about real solutions to the crisis.
“Let’s talk about funding for mental health and substance use disorder treatments.
“Let’s talk about health and public safety.
“And let’s absolutely talk about stopping fentanyl from entering our country and our communities and disrupting and dismantling the transnational criminal organizations that are producing and trafficking it.
“But we cannot grandstand for political points.
“The President has requested critical funding to modernize our illicit drug detection systems and technology, stop fentanyl from coming into our country, break up the supply chains used to produce it in the first place, and support those fighting the opioid crisis in their communities.
“We’ve got to act on these requests—as well as the President’s funding requests to meet operational requirements and needs at the southern border.
“And I hope that, instead of wasting time on partisan nonstarters, we actually can work together on common-sense, bipartisan solutions to help us humanely manage encounters at the border, and process claims of noncitizens seeking protection under our nation’s asylum laws, while continuing our country’s long-tradition of welcoming people who flee violence and persecution.
“We need to fund basic DHS needs like short-term facilities, transportation, medical care, and other related activities that provide a humane environment for asylum seekers while in DHS custody, and support the critical work of border communities, NGOs, and our frontline staff.
“We should all be able to agree that we need to make sure that the folks who safeguard our borders, have the resources they need to do their jobs safely, humanely, and effectively.
“And that reducing USCIS backlogs is a good thing—as is continuing our work to welcome refugees from across the world at a time when so many people are suffering.
“Which is why we also need to fund HHS programs to prevent drastic cuts for states and organizations around the country who are helping refugees settle.
“To be clear, these are refugees fleeing persecution around the world including Rohingya and Uyghur refugees admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, Cubans fleeing the oppressive regime there, and Ukrainians fleeing the war.
“Making sure we can adequately support the resettlement of these refugee populations isn’t just the right thing to do it also supports important national security and strategic interests.
“So let’s talk about serious, bipartisan ideas to address these challenges.
“And, let’s be clear—tackling everything from the child care crisis, to the opioid crisis and beyond requires more than supplemental funding.
“It requires us to also pass strong, full-year appropriations bills—like this Committee has put forward.
“When we operate on one CR after another, our agencies are stuck in neutral.
“They can’t plan for the future.
“They have to delay initiatives and investments.
“And they are far less equipped to meet the pressing challenges we face—just about every national security official has told us it hamstrings their work to keep America safe.
“So, I hope we can continue to make bipartisan progress on supplemental funding to respond to respond to the urgent needs at home and abroad, and our annual appropriations bills to set our nation up for success in the year ahead.
“As we talked about last week, there are some pressing needs across the world right now.
“But—there is no reason for that to stop us from responding to needs right here at home too.
“At such a crucial moment—we cannot afford to treat this as a zero-sum game.
“We are the United States of America.
“We can, we should, and we must stand with our allies around the world, and tackle the challenges our families face here at home—I strongly believe that.
“And I am going to continue doing everything I can to make sure we rise to the occasion, and provide all the resources necessary to meet this moment.”
Next Article Previous Article