Biden Signs Executive Order That Aims to Make Child Care Cheaper

WASHINGTON — President Biden signed an executive order on Tuesday directing federal agencies to find ways to make child care cheaper and more accessible, seeking to make progress on a promise he made that stalled in his first two years in office.

In a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Biden described the order as one of the most sweeping efforts by any president to streamline the delivery of child care.

“Almost every federal agency will collectively take over 50 actions to provide more peace of mind for families and dignity for care workers,” the president said to applause from an audience of families, administration officials, members of Congress and others.

“The cost of care is too high for seniors in nursing homes, for working families with young children,” Mr. Biden added, wearing his aviator sunglasses on the brisk Washington afternoon. At the same time, he said, “pay for care workers is too low.”

White House officials said the executive order was designed to address both sides of that problem by enacting new regulations and tweaking policies without needing vast new amounts of public funding.

“The child care and long-term care systems in this country just don’t work well,” said Susan E. Rice, the director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council. “The order includes more than 50 directives to nearly every agency to take action on fixing our child care and long-term care system.”

Ms. Rice said the order would direct some agencies to lower co-pays for services. Other provisions will seek to make Medicare and Medicaid dollars go further. Still others will examine new ways to improve care for veterans and Native American tribes.

She said the order “marshals the full resources of the federal government” to improve access to high-quality, affordable care.

But the order does not deliver on the goal Mr. Biden himself identified at the beginning of his presidency, when he proposed $225 billion to fully cover child care for low-income Americans and an additional $200 billion for universal preschool.

Those proposals failed to win support in Congress, and Mr. Biden abandoned them in favor of plans to bolster infrastructure and environmental spending.

Now, as the president prepares to announce his re-election campaign, he is seeking to make progress on some big promises that have so far gone unfulfilled.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Biden stressed that the executive order will help make it easier for families to afford to care for their children and their elderly parents, even without the kind of large investment he once envisioned.

“If you live in a major American city, you can pay more than $17,000 a year, as all of you know, per child for child care in order to be able to go to work,” he said. “For a lot of families, that’s more than you pay for your rent.”

He also used his remarks as an opportunity to contrast his policies with those of Republicans in Congress. He noted that on Monday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy proposed severe cuts in spending on domestic programs, excluding defense.

Mr. Biden accused Mr. McCarthy and “MAGA Republicans” of supporting the wealthy by advocating cuts that will affect lower-income Americans, while they continue to support tax cuts for wealthy people put in place under President Donald J. Trump several years ago.

“Critical programs for hardworking Americans that they count on will be slashed starting next year if he has his way,” Mr. Biden said of Mr. McCarthy.

On Monday, Ms. Rice said Mr. Biden had not given up on winning approval for far greater government spending on child care.

“We need to make serious investments,” she said, noting that Mr. Biden’s current budget would add billions of dollars of child care spending. “But in the meantime, we’re going to do everything we can to increase access to care and support care workers and family caregivers.”

Some of the directives in Mr. Biden’s new order will not immediately produce results. One, for example, directs the Department of Health and Human Services “to consider issuing several regulations and guidance documents to improve the quality of home care jobs.” Officials said it would take time for those regulations to be developed, drafted and enacted.

Other provisions might come more quickly. The Department of Veterans Affairs is “directed to consider expanding its veteran directed care program” to all of its medical centers. That program helps veterans hire personal care assistance.

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