The day after Senate Democrats passed their “big, bold” $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, Vice President Kamala Harris convened business leaders on Thursday to build corporate support for one of the plan’s pillars: child care.
“Affordable child care, we know, relates to both a business’s ability to recruit talent and retain talent,” Ms. Harris told a group of business leaders in her ceremonial office.
Attendees included Mark Breitbard, chief executive of the Global Gap Brand; Jenna Johnson, the president of Patagonia; Josh Silverman, the chief executive of Etsy; Alison Whritenour, the chief executive of Seventh Generation; and Hami Ulukaya, the chief executive of the yogurt brand Chobani, among others.
“We know that it directly impacts worker productivity and the bottom lines of your businesses,” Ms. Harris said.
The budget, which aims to transform social policy in the United States, is still far from official, and the challenges to passing it became clear almost immediately, with Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, saying he had “serious concerns” about spending so much. The Biden administration’s agenda on child care includes extending the enhanced tax credit to parents offered as part of the American Rescue Plan, which Columbia University researchers say could cut child poverty by 45 percent. It also calls for expanding various forms of paid leave, up to 12 weeks per year for parental, family care and medical leave, as well as three days of bereavement per year.
The meeting on Thursday underscored the administration’s efforts to get business on board, particularly on issues not traditionally viewed as business matters, though increasingly discussed as such. More than two million women have left the work force since the beginning of the pandemic, and companies, already scrambling to fill open positions, have struggled to bring them back. The share of women in paid work is at the lowest level since 1986.
The White House selected the executives because of their companies’ policies on child care and paid leave, a senior administration official said. In the meeting, Ms. Harris emphasized the importance of child care as both a personal and a business matter.
The United States is the only member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that does not have statutory paid leave for new parents. On Thursday, roughly 300 business leaders from companies including Salesforce and Spotify called for federal paid family leave. In a letter, they said paid leave “leads to better retention, personal health and improved morale, which contributes to greater stability and viability for our businesses, ultimately helping our bottom line.”