Keller @ Large: Rep. Katherine Clark On Critical Need To Support Childcare Industry

WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller talks to Assistant Speaker of U.S. House Katherine Clark.

Video Transcript

JON KELLER: Welcome back to our conversation with Congresswoman Katherine Clark. She is the assistant Speaker of the US House and represents the Fifth Congressional District here in Massachusetts. And Congresswoman, one of the many casualties of the COVID outbreak has been the child care industry. And you are reupping to a bill that passed the House last year but then got no further that spends more than $10 billion on grants to renovate child care facilities, loans to support the industry and its practitioners. How will that be paid for? And in light of the rescue act's generosity to families with children, is it really even necessary?

KATHERINE CLARK: Yes. Child care has been one of those industries that, for too long, we have ignored, underfunded. And frankly, it has this sort of Hobson's choice aspect to it. It can be very expensive for consumers, for parents to access. And a predominantly woman and woman of color workforce is notoriously underpaid.

So we took an industry that was hanging on by threads in the best of times. And in the pandemic, we saw job loss by the hundreds of thousands. And that really has an impact on an entire workforce and business community.

Child care is infrastructure. It is fundamental to our economy. It will be fundamental to reopening our economy.

JON KELLER: Now, speaking of kids, Governor Baker and the teachers' unions here in Massachusetts are at odds over vaccination plans for teachers. The governor has set aside special weekend days for teacher-only vaccination clinics. And he cites CDC claims that teachers can return safely to in-school teaching without being vaccinated. But the unions want their people vaccinated first. And they want the vaccines to be delivered to the schools, an arrangement few other groups enjoy.

Governor Baker argues it's wrong for them to demand priority when there are seniors and people with multiple medical problems still awaiting their shots. Doesn't he have a point?

KATHERINE CLARK: I think that if we have not vaccinated our very most vulnerable populations at this point, we shouldn't be blaming teachers. We should be looking at our rollout. And what we're doing on the federal side with the bill we just passed, with a commitment from the Biden administration, is making sure we have an increased supply. But to me, if we are saying schools have to reopen in April, let's make sure we're protecting our teachers.

JON KELLER: But is it fair to say that we should get the seniors and the people with multiple underlying issues done first before we make special provisions for the teachers?

KATHERINE CLARK: We have to be able to do both things, just like we did with our health care workforce and took on our most vulnerable seniors. And so this is part of it. Child care providers, our early educators, our public school teachers, they need to be treated with that same confidence. And as we see vaccine supply continuing to increase, I think that we can do both things.

JON KELLER: Thank you very much for your time.