Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks in a US Senate committee in June on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Alexander Drago/Pool via AP) Kamala Harris Touts Biden's Economic Plan
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks in a US Senate committee in June on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Alexander Drago/Pool via AP)

Harris, a former presidential candidate, says in virtual meet with NC leaders that Biden would fill childcare “deserts” and help struggling parents who can’t afford daycare during the pandemic.

Former presidential candidate Kamala Harris participated in a virtual roundtable with NC Democrats Thursday to tout presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s plan for investing in early childhood education and caregivers.

“The pandemic has highlighted that educating our children and caregiving without childcare or someone there to care for the sick makes it impossible to go back to work,” Harris said.

Biden has been rolling out the third piece of his “Build Back Better” economic plan this week, which focuses on creating 3 million new jobs in caregiving and education. 

Harris, the US senator from California and an oft-mentioned vice president pick for Biden, led the discussion Thursday, explaining how a focus on caregivers figures prominently in Biden’s jobs and economic recovery plan.

According to Harris, the plan would include provisions to increase childcare worker salaries and provide benefits such as insurance and paid leave. Also included is financial assistance for parents who struggle to afford childcare, as well as funding for universal pre-K for children ages three to four.

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“In North Carolina, parents could save up to $8,000 a year, and on top of that, low-income and middle-class families would get an $8,000 tax credit,” said Harris.

North Carolina’s childcare infrastructure has been under the spotlight amid the coronavirus, with more than a quarter of the state’s centers closed by the pandemic.

Researchers say the return of childcare will be pivotal to restoring the nation’s economy.

Biden’s plan also includes a new childcare construction tax credit to encourage businesses to add childcare facilities where parents work.

“Half of our country lives in childcare deserts,” said Harris. “That means that without that availability, it impairs their ability to go to work and build up their economic health and well-being.”

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Thursday’s virtual roundtable was hosted by state Rep. Carla Cunningham, the House Democratic whip and a registered nurse from Charlotte. The conversation also included Concord health provider Gracie Galloway and Cassandra Brooks, owner of Little Believer’s Academy child care centers in Wake County. 

Brooks, who operates two facilities that provide childcare and early education for children of all income levels from those in foster care to those with parents working in essential roles on the front lines of the pandemic, said she sees these initiatives as essential to long-term post-COVID recovery.

“Early education is so important,” said Brooks. “We need it now more than ever because we need to prepare our children to take care of the world past COVID-19.”

Another component of Biden’s plan focuses on seniors, providing greater access to long-term care for the elderly and people with disabilities, and eliminating wait lists for home care and resources for those on Medicaid.

“Seniors should have the choice if they want to live at home, but we know it’s not a real option unless we give them the support they need,” said Harris. “Joe’s plan would ensure everyone has that option with access to home health care aids, accessibility equipment like ramps, home food delivery, all the things seniors need to remain in their home.”

Harris was one of Biden’s rivals during the Democratic primary, but as is often the case after the parties move to their presumptive nominee, she’s emerged as a supporter of the ex-vice president in the months since she exited the race in December.

On Thursday, Harris also outlined Biden’s plan to pass a domestic workers’ bill of rights to address labor and civil rights issues faced by domestic workers, such as overtime pay, protection from discrimination and protection from retaliation.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris said there is a greater need for caregivers than ever, and Biden’s plan is designed to support those working in these vital roles.

“It’s about recognizing the special nature of the work we’re talking about,” said Harris. “Taking care of the elderly, the sick, our children—that the people in these jobs are doing it with love and a sense of emotional connection to the people they’re caring for. That takes a lot out of people because it takes the whole being to do that.

“Our responsibility as a nation and leaders is to value that work in every way, which is about providing salaries, sick leave, a protected workplace with PPEs and masks to allow caregivers to be safe so they don’t risk themselves and their families.”