The Coronavirus pandemic created an immediate juggling act for moms across the country. When K-12 schools closed, we were thrust into how to help our kids adjust to distance learning even as we maneuver work and other household responsibilities while under quarantine. In the evenings, instead of rushing kids off to football and gymnastics practice, our heavy lifting continued with homework and keeping our kids entertained in our homes. When child care centres couldn't open, more and more caregiving responsibilities fell to us. Frontline workers – a majority of whom are women and disproportionately women of colour – stayed on the job and still managed to be the glue that kept their families together.
We know that 60% of the jobs in the first round of COVID-related layoffs were occupied by women. Single moms who have had to shoulder this burden alone have lost jobs at a much higher rate than their partnered counterparts. According to one estimate, the economic impact of all that working moms have had to balance during the COVID-19 pandemic is around $341 billion dollars.
Being a mom, especially a working mom, has always been a tough job; and many of these challenges existed long before the pandemic. But it shouldn't have to be this hard and it shouldn't come at the risk of reversing decades worth of progress. That's why I was proud to join Joe Biden's campaign as senior advisor and to now also serve as the Chief of Staff for his newly-announced running mate, Kamala Harris, who has spent her career fighting on behalf of women and families.
I'm proud to work for a team that gets it. They understand the challenges facing moms like us. Joe has laid out a comprehensive agenda to advance women's economic security, expand our civil rights, make balancing work and raising a family easier, and finally give all women, particularly women of colour, a fair shot to get ahead.
For America's moms, here are seven ways that a Biden-Harris administration will support us if they're elected.
- Decrease the burden of student debt. Before my daughter was old enough for Kindergarten, I started saving money for her college education, even while still paying off my own student debt. I know I'm not alone in that. Women hold two-thirds of all student loan debt in America. Looking up at a mountain of debt makes it incredibly difficult to get your financial footing, especially when you have kids.
As President, Joe will cut federal student loan payments in half. He will improve loan forgiveness policies, and for people who go into public service, he will offer them $10,000 of student debt relief for every year of national or community service, up to five years.
- Sign the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into law. For too long, pregnant women have had to choose between the health of their pregnancies and their jobs. That's not fair. Joe supports the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to mandate that employers make reasonable workplace accommodations for women.
- Improve wages and benefits in women-dominated fields. Women make up a majority of the teachers preparing the next generation to take on the challenges we'll face in the future. Women like my mom, a home health aid, disproportionately take on jobs helping seniors and people with disabilities live full lives. This is essential work, and it enables a strong economy. Yet, these jobs often come with low pay. If Joe is elected, he will increase the pay and expand the benefits for jobs in women-dominated fields. That includes making sure women in low-wage jobs aren't exploited.
- Reduce maternal mortality rates. The United States has a horrifyingly high rate of mothers who die in childbirth. It's a crisis that especially affects women of colour. The maternal mortality rate is up to three times higher for Black women. For Native Americans, the rate of maternal mortality is more than twice that of white mothers.
California has an initiative to reduce the maternal mortality rate, and in a Biden-Harris administration, the lessons learned from that effort would be applied nationwide.
- Expand paid family and medical leave. When a family member gets sick or when a newborn comes into the world, it's often the moms who have to choose between work or taking time off for caregiving responsibilities. But dropping out of the workforce can hinder women's career trajectories and earning potential.
Joe knows what it's like to take care of ageing parents, and he has been a single parent himself. He has a plan that would guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid leave for all workers. This would cover leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted or fostered children. The leave could also be used to care for a loved one's serious health condition. Joe also supports fair and flexible work schedules, a workplace issue that disproportionately affects working moms.
- Make child care affordable and accessible. The problem is undeniable: child care is far too expensive in this country. Even for families who can manage the cost, it can still be difficult to find options in their community that work for their schedules.
Joe has a plan to address both challenges: the high cost, as well as the shortage of quality options. He will make Pre-K universal and enact a child care tax credit for low-income and middle-class families. He will invest in a well-trained and well-compensated childcare workforce and eliminate child care deserts. And he will also make child care more adaptable to meet the needs of working families, including during after-school, weekend, and summer periods.
- Keep guns out of the hands of abusers. Ending violence against women has been a hallmark of Joe's career in public service. As president, he will close the so-called "boyfriend and stalking loopholes" in gun safety laws, which put women in danger. Joe will ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for the existing ones in our country, he will regulate them and orchestrate a buy-back program. He will also require background checks for all gun sales.
The current health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges that moms today are facing. But when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take office, mothers will gain economic security. They will have more and better options for taking care of their families. They will get the health care they need, and they will be able to feel safer in America.
As a mom during this pandemic, I can understand if you desperately want things to return to normal. But I also know that, for moms, normal wasn't good enough either. That's why I am working so hard on behalf of the Biden-Harris ticket. Because they will make sure we don't set the bar at simply rebuilding our lives after this pandemic. Instead, they will set it at building back an America that's better for moms, and better for all of us, than it's ever been.