Well, I, for one, could listen to Bill for a long time. His service along with all of you who have supported this center is really heartening to me because what you've done is what we all know needs to be done—providing comprehensive health care and making sure that people's needs are addressed across the full range of health. And I am thrilled to be here.
I want to recognize former Lieutenant Governor Crit Luallen. Thank you so much for being here, Crit. I also want to recognize former Secretary Audrey Haynes, former Secretary of Health and Human Services here in Kentucky. I am very grateful to them for their service, for being here, but also because they were part of the Beshear administration that did an absolutely world-class job. I don't suppose you need me to say that Kentucky's expansion of Medicaid, the Connect program, was really held up as the best example of any state's efforts. And I know that it was a real team commitment—the entire administration plus all in the health field who were working so hard to make it possible for more people in this beautiful state to have the health insurance that they deserved.
And I want to thank everyone here at Family Health Centers, which serves thousands and thousands of hardworking Kentucky families. I just met some of the people who work here. I met some of the patients. And they're all just beaming—they're so proud to be associated with such a special place. And I am determined to do what I can to help lift up and celebrate organizations like this. Nothing is more important than helping families, particularly hardworking families who need the kind of support that they get here at the Family Health Centers.
And I was thinking and several people as I was walking around were asking me about my granddaughter or they were mentioning that they had met my daughter, and it was just last Sunday that we were celebrating Mother's Day across our country, and a lot of moms were given homemade cards, maybe breakfast in bed, maybe pictures were taken. I've got a whole drawer of gifts like that. And they'll be treasured forever, but it's also important that we recognize that our country should be celebrating families every single day and doing everything we can to support families—not just with nice words but with real actions that can help parents, moms and dads, do the vital work of raising their children, which is the most important work any of us ever do.
And I've heard from thousands of families who are struggling who are trying to figure out how to get from paycheck to paycheck. They can't figure out how to pay for childcare and to put some money away for maybe college someday. They're struggling to be there for their kids, trying to succeed at home, succeed at work, and they're finding how difficult that is—how many stresses are part of it. And for some families it's even greater if they are raising kids with special needs or with chronic illnesses or they have mental health challenges in their families. And in places that have been devastated by job losses not far from here, where coal, steel and rail jobs are disappearing, raising a family becomes even harder.
I was with some moms and dads yesterday in Northern Virginia talking about the challenges that they all face—how to balance work and family—and a few brought their children with them. And we were impressed that all these children were so patient and their moms were keeping them occupied and happy. But it was really important to hear from each of them what they think they need to do the job and how they can get more help.
These moms and dads are running into the middle-class squeeze that many families face. Their relative incomes are the same or lower than they were some years ago, but the cost of everything is higher, so even with two incomes economic pressures are enormous. And one mom said she's paying $16,000 a year for childcare, which means that there's nothing to put away for college, and they're balancing their budget every week trying to make sure they've got the money they need for everything else.
Earlier, in Lexington today, I met with another group of moms and dads at the Family Care Center near the university, and just about every single one of them said how invaluable it was to have a place where they could come to get help to meet the needs of their kids, including childcare, home-visiting programs, medical checkups. That was such a relief, and a lot of them didn't even know that such a program was available until they really needed it and found their way to it. That freed them up to focus on work, knowing that their kids were in safe hands.
I hear this across the country, because so many families really don't know where to turn. And the parents I've met over the past few days and parents that I've met over the past many years may come from different backgrounds, they may earn different incomes. They're Democrats and Republicans, but they're facing the same challenges and they desperately want to give their kids a good life and they are needing help to deal with the pressures, because they can't figure out often how to solve all of this on their own.
So today, even, walking around with Bill, I met parents just very briefly who come here to this center for all of their medical and health needs. It gives them peace of mind, not just services. And that's just something every parent can understand—getting that peace of mind. I know what it was like so many years ago trying to balance family and work, when my daughter would get sick as I was on the way out the door to work, how I would find somebody to help me take care of her because, of course, if she were sick, the babysitter was also sick. And that's the kind of everyday, real challenge that families are facing.
And I want us to be really focused on what we're going to do to make it easier for families to get ahead and stay ahead. And it's going to be one of the major issues that I'm going to keep talking about because I don't think there is anything more important. I know I was lucky all those years ago that I had backup. And I know a lot of parents are trying as hard as they can.
So what can we do to get our economy and our workplaces that were, frankly, built for a different time, when you had a stay-at-home parent, predominately moms, and one income could support a family—but that's just not the way it is for the vast majority of American families any more. And so what we've got to figure out is how to move our family policy into the 21st century and to do more to help women and men find meaningful work, to earn a good living, but to take care of their most important responsibilities.
So I've been thinking a lot about what we can do. How do we make government policies more efficient? How do we make them more responsive to everything that people have to do, to raise their kids and look after the home and be there to earn a living and build a career? Because I don't think we can keep going on like this. We can't keep saying, families just have to buckle down and tighten their belts and figure it out. I think belts are about as tight as they can get for the vast majority of families.
People are using every single hour of their day, and there's still not enough time to get everything done. And too many parents are lying awake at night trying to figure out how in the world they're going to make it all work. So something's got to change, and there isn't one-size-fits-all. We need a menu of options in a country as diverse as ours. And I think there are a number of things we could do that would make real differences for families.
Let's create a national system of paid family leave. Too many new parents really don't know how to handle the family responsibilities. Too many moms have to go right back to work after their babies are born, or they try to cobble together vacation days and sick days and unpaid leave, short-term disability, anything to get more time with their babies. Many don't even get a paid day off to give birth. That's just almost impossible for many people in many workplaces to believe, but it happens to be true. There is no requirement that people get earned sick days, that they get the kind of support that they need. And too many dads and parents of adopted children don't get any paid leave at all, and neither do sons and daughters who are struggling to take care of aging parents. I just don't think this is fair to families, and that we can and should do better.
California's had paid leave for a number of years. They in fact just expanded it to cover more of the pay needed and to cover more family members. And their economy's doing just fine. The arguments we all hear, like, "Oh, my gosh, you can't do that," we will structure a plan that will be sensitive to small businesses with few employees. But we've got to move with the rest of the world, the advanced economies in the world that provide paid leave programs.
I also want to expand home visiting programs nationwide. In some states, nurses, social workers, volunteers who are trained go right into the home. And we heard about a great program in Lexington. They answer questions about nursing or sleep training. They screen for health and developmental benchmarks so problems can be caught early. They emphasize how important it is to talk, read, and sing to your baby to build your baby's brain, which will better prepare your child to succeed in school. Every family deserves that support, no matter where they live. And the testimonials to the home visiting program that I heard in Lexington were just so glowing about what it meant.
I brought a home visiting program for toddlers to Arkansas called the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters, and it really works. It really helps—not only prepare kids. You know what else it does? It helps parents, predominately mothers and grandmothers, if they are caring for children, feel competent and confident in being that educator in the home that every child needs to have.
We also have to raise families' incomes. Start by raising the minimum wage at the national level, which would give—that would give millions of American families—two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. So it would give a lot of single-parent families a much-needed boost in their income.
And then of course we have to guarantee equal pay for women's work because when—when a woman is paid unfairly, that doesn't just shortchange her. It shortchanges the whole family. And it hurts them down the road in the form of lower Social Security contributions and retirement savings. And I want to do more to encourage employers to embrace family-friendly policies, and here's just one example.
There are these new sophisticated scheduling software programs that help employers squeeze every last once of productivity out of their workforce. But they also throw their workers' families into chaos. Too many workers don't even know what shift they're working until the last minute. If they have kids, that means they're constantly scrambling to line up childcare. And how can you even plan to take your child to the doctor or go to the parent-teacher's conference or sit down at the dinner table as a family if you are working until 1:00 a.m., and then you're told you have to report back at 4:00 a.m.? And it just infuriates me because I have talked to predominately women who are on these kinds of unpredictable, absolutely back-breaking schedules.
That instability is not what families and kids need. So I want to do more to work with businesses and workers to help workers gain more control over their schedules. We cannot be sacrificing families and children for these unpredictable scheduling choices that are really not necessarily. You cannot convince me that you can't do a little better planning. In fact, if businesses can't, then there's something wrong. They need to get some help themselves because that's not a very smart organizing or managerial approach.
And then we've got to put quality childcare within the reach of every family. Right now, in many states, childcare is more expensive than college tuition. That is just a shocking figure. Now, we know that college is too expensive, and that's why I'm advocating for debt-free college. But for many families, childcare costs are even more, and it puts parents in an impossible position. Either they put their kids in a not-so-great place and spend the whole day worried and distracted, or they do whatever it takes to pay for childcare, even if it means taking on debt; or they decide they just can't afford it, so one parent stays home or they put their child in a setting they're not enthusiastic about.
And I've been talking with so many parents that are just caught in this childcare bind. And if they leave the workforce—predominately, again, the mothers—then it makes it harder to get back in the workforce and to get paid what they should have been paid anyway. And for single-parent families, these choices are even more difficult. So I think we've got a lot to do to make quality childcare affordable for all working families and to move us toward a much more family-friendly set of policies.
I looked it up, and here in Kentucky two parents earning the minimum wage have to spend about 20 percent of their income on childcare. For a single parent, that number goes up to 40 percent. Now, if we're going to say we are for family values, then we need to value families. And no family should have to pay more than 10 percent of their income on childcare. And under my plan, that would be what we would do.
And at the same time, we would work to give childcare workers a raise because despite how high the price is for families, the people who actually do the work aren't paid well at all. A lot of them are minimum wage workers, and a lot of them can't stay in the profession because it just doesn't provide enough of a living. In fact, in many places dog trainers are paid more than childcare workers. And I've talked to a lot of childcare workers who can't give their own children the care that they want them to have. And with the high turnover, it doesn't lead to the quality that any family should expect.
So I want to make childcare a profession that attracts and retains talented, qualified workers. As president, I would support states and cities that take steps to increase pay for childcare providers and early educators while at the same time making childcare more affordable for families by having a bigger government backstop. What I learned today in Lexington, they have a really great program, and they get subsidies from the state. They have a sliding scale of payment that is affordable. And that's exactly what we need to be doing for everyone.
And I want to help students who are also parents. That means getting more childcare centers on or near college campuses, like the one I visited today near UK. It also means easing the financial burdens on student parents so they don't give up on school because they can't afford it.
Back in Arkansas, I helped to start a scholarship for single parents, called the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, to help defray some of the costs that single parents ran into because if your childcare falls apart, you can't go to class. If your old car that—you're living out in the country and it's the only way you can get to college dies, you can't get there because—and lots of places in Arkansas, Kentucky, and elsewhere, there's not a lot of mass transit that's going to get you to school. Right?
So we've got to do more. I'd like to do something similar to what I did in Arkansas nationwide because parents who get their degrees—their community college degrees, their four-year degrees—have better job options and better incomes down the road. So if we're serious about helping and supporting families, we've got to do more to support parents who are in school.
Now, every issue that I've mentioned, of course, matters to women. But let's remember, they matter to men, too. We need to help dads just as much as moms, and that goes for every kind of dad and every kind of mom. It shouldn't be about politics. It should be about families.
Now, having said that, we are in the middle of a presidential election right now, and there are real differences between what I believe, what we believe, and what the presumptive Republican nominee believes because at a time when families are struggling to pay for childcare and so much else, Donald Trump actually stood on a debate stage and argued that Americans are being paid too much, not too little. He's even talking about getting rid of the federal minimum wage, leaving it totally to the states, to the mercy of Republican governors, who have already cut the minimum wage for state workers. And that's happened right here in Kentucky.
And it's troubling to me because if you're going to grow the economy, I think it's kind of obvious you want people to be making money so that they can actually spend it and put it back into the economy. Donald Trump wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Your governor is working hard to undermine what Kentucky has accomplished.
So I think with somebody like Donald Trump, you would see a race to the bottom across our country, with working families paying the price. And I don't think that's a risk we can afford. So we have to reject that vision and instead come up with a much more positive one for families and children.
I love being here at this center because I can see how patient-oriented and family-oriented you are. And I've fought for a very long time for childcare and paid leave and early learning. And I've done it because, obviously, I believe in it, and I've lived the work-family balancing act, trying to be a good mom, trying to be a good person at work. But I really believe that healthy, secure families are the foundation of a strong economy and a strong country.
So for me, this goes way beyond the specifics. And I would be so proud to be the champion of a center like this, or like the center I saw in Lexington, to carry your mission into the White House, and try to move into the 21st century with our family and health policies. I am defending the Affordable Care Act because it is working. And if somebody has a better idea, of course we will listen to it. But Kentucky did a really good job in getting people connected, and I met two people signing up just upstairs a few minutes ago. If it ain't broke, don't mess with it. Right?
And so I'm going to continue to speak out on behalf of the Affordable Care Act. And when people say they want to repeal it, they want to end it, they really can't tell you what they want to do because what they want to do will just send us back to where we were, where we had so many uninsured people, so many people suffering, so many people left out of the health care system. I think we are so much better off now than we were. And I know it gives a lot of peace of mind to mothers because we are the principal purchasers and motivators for health care. All the studies show that. We're the ones getting the checkups. We're the one urging people in the family to go to the doctor for X, Y, and Z. So we know that we need a system we can rely on.
And in order to have that system, we need a country that really values what you do here at the center, that is behind you all the way. And I've always believed, as some of you know, that it takes a village to raise a child, that we have a responsibility to support each other and create the best possible environment for kids to grow up so they, too, can thrive. Because when families are strong, America is strong. I think it's really as simple as that.
And so for me, I want to do everything I can, working with you, visionaries who have created this great comprehensive health center, to do more on behalf of all of our families. So I'm really here to say thank you for leading the way. Thank you very much.