Patrick DePula, owners of Salvatore's Tomato Pies, was one of four small business owners who joined the Main Street Alliance and US Rep. Mark Pocan in a Tuesday call supporting President Joe Biden's proposed American Families Plan. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Phetteplace/Main Street Alliance)
Patrick DePula, owners of Salvatore's Tomato Pies, was one of four small business owners who joined the Main Street Alliance and US Rep. Mark Pocan in a Tuesday call supporting President Joe Biden's proposed American Families Plan. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Phetteplace/Main Street Alliance)

Small-business owners from restaurant owners to childcare providers advocate for provisions in Biden’s American Families Plan.

When Patrick DePula first launched his business, Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, in 2011, he had to deal not only with the stress of starting a small business, but also with something that hit even closer to home: a lack of access to child care.

“I remember … just not knowing what to do, and struggling, and taking an 84-mile round trip every morning to drop my children off with my elderly parents, which added hours to an already ridiculous schedule,” DePula said.

A decade later, he sees meaningful reforms in President Joe Biden’s proposed American Families Plan that aims to support working families through subsidized childcare costs, paid family and medical leave, and higher wages to attract more workers to fill childcare deserts. The $1.8 trillion plan, which Biden unveiled late last month, is the latest proposal the president argues will expand the middle class and stabilize the post-COVID economy.

DePula was one of four business owners who joined the Main Street Alliance, a progressive small-business lobby, and US Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Town of Vermont) in a Tuesday morning call to support Biden’s plan. The speakers said the pro-family policies contained in the proposal will help workers in addition to small businesses by alleviating the nation’s childcare crisis and helping employees take time off to care for their families.

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Wisconsin families pay an average of $12,268 per year for infant care and $9,954 for toddlers and 4-year-olds, according to a pre-pandemic study from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. As costs have risen, parents—disproportionately mothers—have been forced to leave the workforce, further decreasing economic activity.

Meanwhile, wages have remained devastatingly low for childcare workers, with 19.7% of people in the industry living in poverty, according to the study. That means fewer childcare providers are able to stay in business due to a lack of pay and employees.

“Something has to give, and it can’t be working families,” said Macy Buhler, owner of Yahara River Learning Center in DeForest. “We can’t have an economy without working families.”

Macy Buhler, owner of Yahara River Learning Center in DeForest, said the childcare industry needs help to support working families. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Phetteplace/Main Street Alliance)

The American Families Plan would ensure families up to 150% a state’s median household income would pay no more than 7% of their income on childcare and also raise wages for the industry from an average of $12.24 per hour to at least $15 per hour.

The fate of the plan is unclear. Republicans in Congress say the proposal—which Biden would pay by increasing corporate tax rates and closing loopholes—is too expensive, and they are claiming the plan would transform the country beyond recognition. Pocan said he hopes Republicans are willing to come to a compromise, but he said Democrats in Congress won’t be afraid to forge ahead on their own if Republicans only try to obstruct the process.

“We want to work with them. We want them to come to the table,” Pocan said. “But if they’re not going to, we’re not going to go home crying. We’re going to get things done, and they can explain to the American people why they didn’t get them done.”