The Biden administration is looking to use its fiscal leverage to promote its goal of expanding affordable child care. The Commerce Department is reportedly set to announce that semiconductor chip manufacturers looking to receive a portion of the $39 billion in industry subsidies passed as part of last year’s bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act will first have to ensure workers can get affordable, high-quality child care.
“Companies that receive the subsidies to build new plants will be able to use some of the government money to meet the new child care requirement,” Jim Tankersley reports at The New York Times. “They could do that in a number of ways, in consultation with Commerce officials, who will set basic guidelines but not dictate how companies ensure workers have access to care they can afford.”
Why it matters: The new requirement, Tankersley notes, “joins a growing list of administration efforts to expand the reach of Mr. Biden’s economic policies beyond their primary intent. For instance, administration officials have attached stringent labor standards and ‘Buy America’ provisions to money from a bipartisan infrastructure law.”
But the latest move also reflects the administration’s conviction that a lack of affordable child care represents a massive obstacle to any broader renaissance in domestic manufacturing and more widespread economic and job gains. "We're not doing this for the sake of putting points on the board for child care policy, but we are acknowledging that when you look at the labor market right now, one of the largest factors keeping people out of the labor market is caregiving responsibilities," Caitlin Legacki, a senior adviser at the Commerce Department, told Axios.
The bottom line: Biden had failed to get Republicans or centrist Democrats to back much of his agenda devoted to “human infrastructure” — investments in programs including guaranteed paid leave, child care, elder care, universal pre-K and free community college. The administration is now trying to take steps toward those goals as it implements its legislative successes.