Biden pledges free preschool as part of sweeping caregiving proposal

Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden (R), accompanied by his wife Jill Biden (L), speaks at a primary night event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 10 March 2020 (reissued 06 June 2020). EPA-EFE/TRACIE VAN AUKEN

NEW CASTLE, Del., July 21 (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden outlined a sweeping plan on Tuesday aimed at breathing life into the coronavirus-battered U.S. economy by investing $775 billion in caregiving programs for children, the elderly and the disabled.

By Joseph Ax

As part of the proposal, which Biden said would create 5 million jobs, he pledged to provide all 3-year-old and 4-year-old children access to free preschool. He also promised to make it easier for aging relatives and loved ones with disabilities to receive home or community-based care.

“We’re trapped in a caregiving crisis within an economic crisis within a healthcare crisis,” Biden told educators at a campaign event in New Castle, Delaware. “You’re doing everything you can, but this president is not.”

Both Biden and Republican President Donald Trump are eager to woo working women who are caring for parents and children during a pandemic that has shuttered schools and workplaces.

In budget proposals to Congress before the pandemic, Trump suggested spending $1 billion on grants to states to help them build childcare and early-learning services. The president and lawmakers are working on a fourth coronavirus relief package that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin estimated could include $1 trillion and would focus on “kids and jobs and vaccines.”

Reuters/Ipsos polling shows Biden ahead of Trump by 11 percentage points with women, who are expected to play a critical role in swaying the most competitive swing states in the Nov. 3 election.

Eager to erase Trump’s advantage with voters on the economy, Biden’s latest plan is the third of a four-part approach he has rolled out in recent weeks.

The former vice president would send federal aid to state and local governments to keep childcare programs and other public services operating.

Ultimately, the plan would seek to create 3 million jobs in the healthcare and education sectors, while bolstering the workforce overall by 5 million by allowing people who were taking care of children or relatives to rejoin the labor force.

The campaign said the initiative would be paid for by rolling back tax breaks for real estate investors and tightening enforcement of the existing U.S. tax code.

“Instead of pro-job and pro-growth policies, Biden is turning to an old friend – tax hikes and big government,” Trump spokesman Zach Parkinson said in an email.

Biden previously released proposals aimed at boosting U.S. manufacturing and building clean-energy infrastructure projects as the country continues to reel from a pandemic that has forced millions out of jobs and has killed more than 141,000 people in the United States, the most of any country.

(Additional reporting by James Oliphant in Washington and Trevor Hunnicutt in New York; Writing by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)


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