Key Provisions for Workers and Working Families in the Build Back Better Act

Blog Post
Oct. 29, 2021

This week, Congressional negotiators and the White House released the text of the latest version of the Build Back Better Act, a $1.75 trillion bill that would make needed investments in a number of areas, such as expanding health care, child care, pre-K, education, and workforce development. Here’s a look at some of the bill’s major provisions:

Pre-K and Child Care

  • $400 billion to provide two years of free pre-K for 3 and 4 year-olds and to make child care more affordable.
    • For families making up to 250 percent of a state’s median income, the bill would cap child care costs at 7 percent of their annual income.
    • The bill would also require child care providers to pay workers a living wage. This would be a step up from the national average of $12 an hour, which has made child care an unsustainably low-paying job for too many workers.

Home Care

  • $150 billion to expand home and community-based care for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Permanently increases the federal matching rate for Medicaid spending by 6 percentage points for states that implement a Home and Community-Based Services improvement program to strengthen and expand these services.
  • $1 billion to recruit and retain direct care workers and improve care wages through training, registered apprenticeships, the creation of career pathways, and mentoring.

While the bill’s focus on improving pay for home and child care workers is welcome, job quality is not just about pay. We should also aim to ensure care workers have access to benefits, stable schedules, and a say in their workplace.

Higher Education and Workforce Development

  • $40 billion for higher education and workforce development, including:
    • $3 billion for Adult and Dislocated Worker Employment and Training Activities and $1.5 billion for Youth Workforce Investments under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
    • $1 billion over five years to expand registered apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, and youth apprenticeships. Half that sum will go toward serving people with barriers to employment, people with disabilities, and populations underrepresented in apprenticeships.
    • $5 billion for industry or sector partnerships that would bring together state and local workforce boards, employers, labor organizations, and education and training providers to expand training for high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industries.
    • $500 million for college retention and completion grants.
    • Increases the Pell Grant by $550.

Labor Enforcement and Worker Power

  • Increased funding for labor enforcement agencies, including:
    • The National Labor Relations Board ($350 million);
    • The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division ($405 million);
    • The Occupational Health and Safety Administration ($707 million); and
    • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ($321 million).
  • The bill also:
    • Allows the NLRB to collect civil penalties of up to $100,000 from employers that violate existing unfair labor practices under the National Labor Relations Act.
    • Increases OSHA fines for willful and repeat violations against worker health and safety.

While these provisions would go a long way toward strengthening workers’ power and well-being, they are no substitute for passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in full. This would ensure more workers have the ability to form a union and collectively bargain for high-quality working conditions.

Civilian Climate Corps

  • The Build Back Better Act would expand access to climate-related employment opportunities for youth and people of color through the following provisions:
    • $15.2 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service to invest in paid national service opportunities working on climate resilience and mitigation projects.
    • $4.28 billion for the U.S. Department of Labor for employment and training activities related to climate resilience or mitigation, with a focus on youth.
  • The bill would create a Civilian Climate Corps of 300,000 members, with a particular focus on opening up these opportunities to a diverse population.

Though the Build Back Better Act makes significant and vital investments, it doesn’t include everything. Ambitious and much-needed climate and social safety net provisions, particularly the Clean Electricity Performance Program and paid leave, were stripped from the bill in an effort to secure enough support for Senate passage. Our country desperately needs more robust policies to avert further damage to our planet from burning fossil fuels. We also need more policies that make it easier for workers to meet their family obligations, particularly working mothers and daughters. Stakeholders will need to keep advocating and building strong majorities for these policies.

Lawmakers and stakeholders are currently digesting the text of the Build Back Better Act, while Congressional leaders and the White House work to build support for it. Much remains to be determined with respect to the bill’s path forward in Congress, and we could potentially see changes and new provisions added before it comes up for a vote. As the legislative process continues, what is clear is that consensus exists for a number of significant investments that would help create an inclusive economy in which everyone can succeed.

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