Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has sought to make gender equity and family policies cornerstones of her 2020 presidential campaign, and a wide-ranging set of proposals she unveiled on Wednesday further illustrate this focus.
Gillibrand’s new platform, something she’s calling the Family Bill of Rights, includes measures aimed at making child care more affordable, as well as policies that would give more children access to health care and pre-K.
While the platform covers an expansive set of issues including everything from the cost of fertility treatments to a tax credit intended to defray the costs of child care, an initial overview from the campaign was somewhat light on specifics about how these efforts would ultimately be implemented.
Instead, the proposals simply outline the contours of Gillibrand’s priorities on family policies, further staking out an issue area that she has made core to her candidacy.
The five tenets of Gillibrand’s Family Bill of Rights, briefly explained
Gillibrand lays out five key areas in which she intends to propose policy changes, the details of which are still forthcoming in certain cases. The candidate notes that the costs for these programs could be paid for by a financial transaction tax — or an added fee on transactions on stocks and bonds — that’s estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to bring in $777 billion over the course of roughly a decade. Here’s what we know so far about the plan’s goals, briefly explained.
1) Make pregnancy safer: Gillibrand wants to tackle the US maternal mortality rate, which is one of the highest of any developed country around the world. Roughly 50,000 women experienced a medical complication or died during childbirth last year, according to the campaign, and 60 percent of those complications were preventable. The maternal mortality rate is also far higher for black mothers, who die at three times the rate of white mothers. Gillibrand would provide states and hospitals more resources dedicated to addressing this problem, and to explicitly target the shortage of OB-GYNs in rural areas.
2) Ensure that all Americans have equal access to adoption and the ability to have a child: Currently, costs for adoptions and fertility treatments are extremely prohibitive for many Americans, not to mention potentially discriminatory based on “sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or religion,” the campaign notes. Gillibrand’s plan would bar discrimination in taxpayer-funded adoption and child welfare agencies, offer a refundable adoption tax credit to give families the financial support to adopt a child, and require insurance firms to cover the costs of fertility treatments like IVF.
3) Ensure every parent has access to resources to care for their newborn: Items needed by a newborn baby can be notoriously expensive. Gillibrand wants to help families defray some of this cost by doing something that the Finnish government currently does: Provide “baby bundles,” or free baby-related items to families with newborns. These bundles would include supplies (like diapers, blankets, and onesies) for a newborn’s first month.
4) Guarantee access to paid family leave and health care for children: The US is still the only industrialized nation that does not have paid family leave. Gillibrand, who’s long been one of the chief sponsors of the FAMILY Act, would push legislation that guarantees all parents and caregivers 12 weeks of paid leave. Additionally, she’s calling for an expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program so that it’s universal.
5) Make pre-K and affordable child care more accessible: Child care continues to be one of the most prominent costs that new families face, as is access to early childhood education. Gillibrand would offer tax credits that give parents $6,000 a year per child in order to cover child care. She also backs the implementation of universal pre-K in different states.
It’s worth noting that many of these proposals — much like other ambitious plans that have been rolled out by the 2020 field — are a long shot, especially in a divided Congress. While the issue of paid family leave has picked up momentum in recent months, for example, Democrats and Republicans can’t seem to agree on how to pay for a federal program.
Family policy has become a more prominent issue this cycle, with other candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), offering sweeping plans related to the subject. Warren’s plan on universal child care, which she unveiled earlier this year, would take a different approach to covering the costs of child care by levying a tax on the ultra-wealthy, ensuring that universal child care would be free for all families earning less than 200 percent of the poverty line.
Gillibrand’s proposals further carve out her position on these policy areas, and provides a comprehensive look at the kinds of policies that are needed to address rising costs families face today.
“Passing the Family Bill of Rights will be my priority in my first 100 Days as president, and I believe it will transform American families and their ability to achieve the American Dream,” Gillibrand said in a statement.
Whether this approach serves as enough of a differentiator in the crowded Democratic primary field remains to be seen.