Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday introduced her "Family Bill of Rights," a five-point economic policy that aims to "lift many of the financial burdens on families and help level the playing field for children."
"The resources and care available at the start of a child's life have a crucial impact on their health, safety, development, and future success — but not every child starts on equal footing," the senator from New York wrote on a Medium post detailing her plan.
"Families and kids face huge disparities in opportunity and resources depending on their income and zip code, and the gap is wider for families of color," she noted. "That isn't fair, and it isn't acceptable."
Gillibrand vowed Wednesday that, if she is elected president, she will implement her proposal, which "guarantees a set of fundamental rights to give every child the chance to succeed — no matter what block they grow up on," during her first 100 days in office.
Today I'm announcing my Family Bill of Rights: a new economic policy platform that will lift many of the financial burdens on families and help level the playing field for children. pic.twitter.com/Zd6fugLlLx
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) May 22, 2019
Gillibrand's sweeping Family Bill of Rights addresses everything from maternal care and paid family leave to universal pre-K and healthcare for children. To cover the costs, she proposes a financial transaction tax, which would generate $777 billion over a decade, according to her campaign.
The five fundamental rights of her proposal are:
- The right to a safe and healthy pregnancy;
- The right to give birth or adopt a child, regardless of income or sexual orientation;
- The right to a safe and affordable nursery;
- The right to personally care for your loved ones while still getting paid, including care for your child in its infancy; and
- The right to affordable childcare and early education before kindergarten is available publicly.
To improve maternal care—particulary for women of color, who are more than three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than their white peers—Gillibrand calls for a plan modeled off of former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's (D-N.D.) legislation to study data from rural communities, improve training, and make it easier to boost the number of OB-GYNs.
Gillibrand's proposal would "ensure that taxpayer-funded adoption and child welfare agencies can't discriminate against foster or adoptive families," and "provide a tax credit to ensure that a family's ability to adopt and provide a stable home for a child isn't dependent on their wealth." She would also require insurance companies to cover fertility treatment.
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Borrowing a page from Finland's book, the senator calls for launching a nationwide program to provide new parents with "baby bundles" that contain necessary supplies "like diapers, swaddle blankets, and onesies, all in a box with a small mattress that can be repurposed as a nursery bed."
"Every child deserves the same opportunities to learn, grow, and reach their potential — which is why I would enact universal pre-K and expand the Child and Dependent Care tax credit so that families can afford safe, high-quality childcare."
—Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
The presidential hopeful aims to ensure universal healthcare for kids by automatically enrolling every newborn in the existing Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and giving them access to Medicaid's Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit.
"Every child deserves the same opportunities to learn, grow, and reach their potential — which is why I would enact universal pre-K and expand the Child and Dependent Care tax credit so that families can afford safe, high-quality childcare," Gillibrand wrote. "My plan would also professionalize at-home and day care, expand access to early education for children with disabilities, and support childcare workers."
Gillibrand's sweeping new agenda on childcare/pre-K/paid leave is the first 2020 proposal that tackles the challenges of new families all at once, say experts.
"Too often policymakers treat people's challenges in silos. This plan brings it all together." https://t.co/TMhz1mt0Zn
— Molly Redden (@mtredden) May 22, 2019
Gillibrand, who has a track record of advocating for policies such as paid leave, has made children and families a key focus of her presidential campaign. When she announced her exploratory committee on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in January, the senator said she is running for president "because as a young mom, I'm going to fight for other people's kids as hard as I would fight for my own."
While Gillibrand's new policy is comprehensive, she isn't the only Democratic primary candidate to roll out family-focused proposals.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in February, put forth a plan to tax the wealthy to help establish universal childcare. On Wednesday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) reintroduced a bill from 2018 designed to combat racial bias in maternal care.
Earlier this month, on the heels of an "absolutely devastating" report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the nation's rising maternal mortality, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) unveiled legislation crafted to promote community-based, holistic healthcare for pregnant people and new parents.