President Biden’s speech to the Joint Session of Congress this week marked the return of values we in Massachusetts hold dear.
The President has shown by his words and actions that he understands the concerns of working families in Bedford, Burlington, and other communities across America. Not long ago, I introduced a bill that became the Paid Family and Medical Leave law in Massachusetts. It would not have become law without the active help of the Obama/Biden Administration. I was invited to the White House several times to discuss the policy with leaders from the administration and several other states and municipalities. Led by then Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Deputy Secretary Chris Lu, joined by then-Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, we put our heads together and got it done. The result? Massachusetts and Washington became the first two states to create a system to allow families to take time from work in times of great need. Pres. Biden’s appointment of Marty Walsh as Labor Secretary proves that he gets it, and he is committed to the concerns of working families.
We have returned to the spirit of ingenuity, the spirit that always defined our country. In the American Families Plan (“AFP”) the president proposed 12-weeks of Paid Family and Medical Leave. If passed, American families could be together during times of joy – the birth or adoption of a child – or times of great stress, such as the hospitalization of a child, a parent, or a spouse. We have it here in Massachusetts. We can bring it to the rest of the country, and the President has asked our help in getting it done. When we do, we will leave the ranks of Sri Lanka and Papua, New Guinea, and join every other member of the United Nations in adopting a form of Paid Leave.
The AFP also includes much-needed assistance for families who struggle with early education and child care costs. We know that children who attend pre-school have a much better chance of success throughout their education. But we also know that pre-school is too expensive for many families. Most economists agree that pre-school tuition equals that of college. In Massachusetts, the average cost is $17,062 per year.
Here in the Commonwealth, my House colleague Adrian Madaro (D-East Boston) and I filed the Common Start bill, which will cap childcare and early education costs at 7 percent of a family’s income. This is the amount that research shows will work and is the same cap announced by President Biden in the AFP. Our plan will provide support for our pre-school providers so they can offer quality education for our children while paying teachers and support staff a wage that will attract good people. Parents who want to go back to work will find it financially possible to do so. Employers who want access to quality workers will not find childcare costs an impediment. A majority of our legislative colleagues and a great number of business and family groups support this plan, and with the help of the White House, we can get this done.
The AFP provides significant funding we can use to manage our Common Start plan. The President knows that investments in our children always pay dividends. Once again, we are on the same page, and the efforts in Washington complement our work in Massachusetts. And once again, we will be joined by Marty Walsh, this time not as a colleague in Boston, but as an advocate in the Cabinet.
Massachusetts and Boston are once again seen by the White House as a Commonwealth and a City on a Hill, whose example is worth following. We have the opportunity to help guide America forward. It is exciting to see that we again have a partner in President Joe Biden.