DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Donald Trump is rolling out proposals Tuesday to make child care more affordable, including a plan to guarantee new mothers six weeks of paid maternity leave and create new dependent-care savings accounts.
Trump will unveil the plans in a speech in a Philadelphia suburb, a key area in a vital swing state as Trump tries to build his appeal with more moderate, independent voters — especially women. Child care is one of the biggest expenses many American families face, surpassing the cost of college and even housing in many states. And in promising paid maternity leave, Trump is sharply breaking with conservative orthodoxy that the government not mandate what benefits companies must give workers.
Trump had said little about child care until his daughter, Ivanka, surprised many at the Republican National Convention in July by promising it will be a centerpiece of a Trump administration. During a rally in Des Moines Tuesday afternoon, Trump credited Ivanka Trump for his action on the issue. “She is the one who has been pushing for it so hard: ‘Daddy, Daddy we have to do this.’ She’s very smart, and she’s right,” the candidate said.
Because Trump’s proposal is a tax deduction rather than credit, its greatest benefits would go to affluent households with higher tax bills. More than 40 percent of U.S. taxpayers don’t make enough money to owe taxes to the federal government, meaning they would not benefit from a deduction.
“Given the late-breaking nature of this policy proposal it’s hard not to feel like it’s a pretty naked attempt to speak to women voters less than 60 days before the election,” said Vivien Labaton of Make It Work Action, which pushes for increased child care access. “If he was really intent on addressing the needs of women and children, the proposals would look quite different.”
The timing and location of the announcement are no coincidence. Pennsylvania is a state Democrats have won since 1992, but Trump hopes to flip to win the White House in November. And Trump has been trying to soften his image among college-educated women who have been reluctant to support a candidate who has made many derogatory remarks toward women.
Trump would limit the tax deduction to individuals earning $250,000 or less, or $500,000 or less if filing jointly. Lower-income earners would receive child-care spending rebates through the existing Earned Income Tax Credit.
Trump will also lay out plans to create “Dependent Care Savings Accounts” that would allow families to set aside money to look after children or elderly parents. The accounts would allow tax-deductible contributions and tax-free appreciation, according to the campaign. It could be used to pay for child care, after-school programs and school tuition. To help lower-income parents, the government would match half of the first $1,000 deposited per year.
For elderly dependents, the accounts could be used to help pay for services including in-home nursing and long-term care.
Carmel Martin at the liberal Center for American Progress said the new savings accounts would create a potential tax shelter for wealthy people and that Trump’s proposals remain tilted to the rich because the low-income child-care rebates top out at $1,200.
“It would definitely work for Ivanka, but not for most American families,” Martin said.
Trump is also expected to propose incentives for employers to provide child-care options at work. He has previously touted similar programs at his hotels and golf clubs — but The Associated Press has reported that those options are offered to guests and club members, not employees.
Trump aides did not address how much the proposals would cost, but stressed that, when combined with other policies including Trump’s tax plan, it would be cost neutral.
Clinton, meanwhile, proposes that no family should spend more than 10 percent of its income on child care.
To achieve this, Clinton would seek to boost federal spending on child-care subsidies and provide “tax relief for the cost of child care to working families.” Those benefits would be offered on a sliding scale based on need.
Since announcing the plan in May, Clinton has offered few details, including how it would be funded beyond raising taxes on wealthy Americans.
Angela Rachidi at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said that Trump’s adjustments to his proposal show he is trying to make it less regressive and that he seems to share Clinton’s goals of helping families pay for child care.
“Conceptually, both teams are putting out similar proposals,” Rachidi said, adding that, while some of the details may not work, Trump deserves credit. “You haven’t heard the past few Republican nominees talk about child care a lot.”
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