Duckworth, Speier Introduce Legislation to Support Military Families by Enhancing Military Childcare Services and Expanding Parental Leave for Servicemembers
[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator and combat Veteran Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years and is Chair of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Airland Subcommittee, and U.S. Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA-14) today introduced a package of bills that would help strengthen military readiness and better support military families by tackling the military childcare crisis and expanding parental leave for servicemembers. The Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act would, among other provisions, make sure that all primary and secondary caregivers in the military can access 12 weeks of paid parental leave. The Military Childcare Expansion Act would, among other provisions, better equip the Pentagon to help fix the 135 Military Child Development Centers (CDCs) operating in “poor” or “failing” condition.
“Our military’s recruitment, retention and overall readiness are harmed when a military family can’t find quality childcare for their children, or when a servicemember is forced to return to duty less than a month after the birth of their child,” Duckworth said. “I’m proud to be introducing these bills with Representative Speier that would help address these critical issues facing our military families by recognizing that accessible childcare is a necessity—not a luxury—and that both parents have important roles to play during the important first weeks that a child is with their family. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get these bills passed and to President Biden’s desk.”
“When a military family can’t get the child care they need, that’s a crisis for the family’s finances and our military readiness,” said Rep. Speier, Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, regarding the Military Childcare Expansion Act. “Servicemembers need safe, quality, available child care so that they can focus on the mission. Military spouses need child care so that they can work, earn an income to support their families, and advance their careers and dreams. Despite the abhorrent condition of more than 100 military child care centers and desperate need for additional capacity, only eight military child care facility projects were funded over the last decade. This is appalling and a national embarrassment. It also won’t be fixed overnight, but our bill will finally turn on the spigot of funds and resources and grant the services additional tools to reduce waiting lists while ensuring that military leadership takes necessary and immediate action.”
“Parental leave for military servicemembers is absurdly out of touch and outdated when compared to federal benefits and options provided by many private, large employers,” said Rep. Speier, Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, regarding the Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act. “New parents need time to bond with their children after birth, adoption, or foster placement; servicemembers are no exception. Our bill modernizes the military’s parental leave policies, will improve the health of mothers and children, and will make the armed services a more welcoming and supportive place for parents, something all Americans understand and that there is strong support for across party lines. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill with my House and Senate colleagues and look forward to getting these provisions included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.”
A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report from March of last year states that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) was only able to accommodate 78 percent of the demand for childcare development center (CDCs). CDCs also don’t work for every family, as some families need to use in-home care or private childcare providers that are not located on-base. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have only magnified the childcare issues military families are experiencing due to facility closures, stricter protocols and reduced operating capacities.
Specifically, the Military Childcare Expansion Act would:
- Authorize the Secretary of Defense to expand an in-home childcare subsidy pilot program established in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and strike restrictive language from the NDAA that undermines the department’s ability to effectively implement the pilot program
- Direct the Secretary of Defense to conduct a pilot program on the expansion of public-private childcare partnerships between the DoD and private childcare providers
- Direct a study into current poor and failing conditions of military Child Development Centers (CDCs) as a first step in identifying and addressing long-term issues with CDCs
- Provide a near-term fix for poor CDC conditions in the interim by temporarily authorizing the DoD to use O&M funding for minor childcare construction projects.
This legislation is endorsed by Blue Star Families.
The legislation is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
The Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act would:
- Increase parental leave for the primary caregiver from 6 weeks to 12 weeks in the case of birth or adoption of a child (in addition to 6 weeks of convalescent leave for childbirth)
- Increase parental leave for the secondary caregiver from 14-21 days to 12 weeks in the case of birth or adoption of a child
- Authorize the services to provide the full 12 weeks of primary and secondary caregiver leave for foster children, and require DoD to establish policies that define eligibility for caregiver leave for long-term foster placement
- Require the services to implement policies to allow for caregiver leave in multiple increments no later than July 1, 2022
- Require the Secretary of Defense to issue guidance to the services about the use of convalescent leave for miscarriages, stillbirth and infant death
- Authorize the services to provide up to the full amount of secondary caregiver leave for miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death, and require the Secretary of Defense to establish consistent policies across the services
- Require the Secretary of Defense to establish a uniform post-birth deferral policy for temporary duty, physically demanding training, body composition and physical fitness testing across the services;
- Authorize the services to pilot modifying the Career Intermission Program (CIP) service-commitment period when used by new parents, enabling a one-year service commitment for each year in the CIP, lower than the current 2-year commitment
- Require the Secretary of Defense to provide an annual report to Congress supplying data on use of primary and secondary caregiver leave, so Congress can understand trends in implementation and servicemember election to take leave
This legislation is endorsed by the National Military Family Association (NMFA), Mom2Mom Global, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, and MomsRising.
The legislation is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Patty Murray (D-WA), Mazie Hirono (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
In October of last year, Duckworth introduced a bill to strengthen military readiness by making childcare more accessible to military families that host au pairs. In March of this year, Duckworth and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) re-introduced a bipartisan bill that would allow servicemembers time to grieve the death of their newborn babies.
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