As a mom, I know that parents have an increasingly difficult job in today’s world. The economic pressures, the time demands, and the many outside influences that affect even the youngest children – all of these make this an especially challenging time for American families, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
All parents want to protect their children and make sure they have the best possible chance to grow up and succeed in life. Too many Minnesota families are struggling to make ends meet – squeezed by unemployment, rising health care costs, soaring home mortgage payments, and mounting bills for child care and college tuition. And an ever-increasing number of people find themselves simultaneously bearing the responsibility of caring for their aging parents while also raising their own children.
Ultimately, our national well-being – our economic prosperity and our quality of life – depends on the strength of our families. We must support strong families and make sure parents have the tools they need to protect their children and do what's best for them.
I will continue to work to make sure that our children grow up healthy and safe, and that all of our families have the resources they need to deal successfully with today's challenges.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Promoting long-term economic growth, good jobs, and higher wages for Minnesota families. We must foster economic growth and good jobs that benefit Minnesota families by strengthening our commitment to education and training, increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, supporting our small businesses, reforming our tax policies, addressing our nation’s debt, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, and responsibly reducing red tape. This includes focusing on jobs, wages, and affordable health care, child care, and housing. [See Jobs and the Economy]
- Ensuring working mothers have the support they need to succeed in the workforce. We must make sure women - especially moms - have the support they need as we work to rebuild our economy and improve the financial health of families. More than 2 million women have left the U.S. workforce since the pandemic began due to family considerations or having careers in some of the hardest hit industries. I know that the economic recovery from the coronavirus includes the return of mothers to the workforce, and I will keep fighting to make sure we have programs in place - including paid leave, affordable child care, and mental health resources - that support mothers as they reenter the workplace.
- Fighting for child care and paid sick, family, and medical leave. Minnesota is a leader when it comes to supporting working families. I support providing paid sick days and paid family and medical leave at the federal level so no one has to sacrifice a paycheck for the birth of a child, to care for an elderly parent, or to get treatment for a serious health condition. In addition, we must make sure that early education options are available to all American families. I also support helping families across Minnesota and the country access affordable, quality child care—especially in rural communities. That’s why I introduced the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act with Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska to address the national shortage of child care providers and safe child care facilities by providing grants for states to train child care workers and build or renovate child care facilities in areas facing child care shortages.
- Expanding higher education opportunities. Minnesotans have always believed that investing in higher education pays extraordinary dividends. But skyrocketing costs prevent many qualified students from attending college and force many others to end their education prematurely. The cost of college has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years. It is no surprise that student loan debt has spun out of control, becoming a crippling financial burden to many young people and their families. U.S. student debt has increased to over $1.7 trillion, with the average undergraduate leaving school with $30,000 in debt. It is time to provide real help for students and their families to make college more affordable. I am fighting to gain stronger federal support for higher education opportunities – because our future success as a state and a nation depends on making sure that quality education is accessible and affordable. We also must do a better job of preparing students for the jobs that will be available to them when they graduate – positions that may not require a Ph.D. or even a four-year degree, but nonetheless demand specialized training and experience. Credentials and one- and two-year degrees offered by community and technical colleges may often be a better option for students who plan on entering the skilled workforce immediately after graduation. We must make these degrees a more central focus of our higher education system. We must also support students during times of crisis, which is why I have supported measures that have temporarily suspended student loan payments for federal student loan borrowers during this coronavirus pandemic.
- Protecting children from unsafe products. Parents should be able to trust that the products they buy for their children are safe. Consumers deserve products that have been tested and meet strong health and safety standards. As a member of both the Senate Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, I am fighting to make sure that the federal agencies charged with keeping Americans safe are vigilant in doing their job to protect all consumers from hazardous products.
- Keeping children safe from predators – both on the streets and on the internet. In a fast-changing society, parents need all the help they can get to protect their children from emerging threats to their safety, especially as children spend more time online while schools have increased online learning. I know there are criminals who are intent on victimizing children. Federal support is essential for local law enforcement and the criminal justice system to make sure sex offenders and other potential predators can be identified before they are able to prey on any victims.
- Ensuring that our children are healthy and receive proper nutrition. Our children need proper nutrition so that they grow into healthy and active adults. Childhood obesity has become a national health issue, with an estimated one out of every three children in the U.S. between the ages of two and 19 overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Ensuring that children have access to nutritious food is critical not only for their own well-being, but for the well-being of our nation. By promoting healthy lifestyles early, we can combat childhood obesity and improve children’s health across the country. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences have put more families and children at risk of food insecurity, which is why I worked to pass legislation that included additional funding for child nutrition programs to ensure that children continue receiving meals during this pandemic.
- Supporting families and children through adoption. Like so many Minnesotans, I share the belief that every child should have a safe home and a loving family. As county attorney and now as the Senate co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I have worked to expedite adoptions and assist families who are adopting children. Minnesota has a strong tradition of welcoming children from around the world and holds one of the highest per-capita rates of international adoption. International adoptions should be as straightforward and affordable as possible for American families. In addition, we must ensure that adoptive families – regardless of whether they are adopting here at home or internationally – have the full support and services they may need throughout the adoption process.
- Assisting families in caring for seniors and those with disabilities. More than half of Americans turning 65 today are projected to need some type of long-term care in their lives. Seniors want to be able to live independently and stay in their own homes as long as possible and family support is essential to making that option available. While nursing homes and paid care providers serve our seniors in some situations, the vast majority of elder care comes from informal caregivers – more than half of whom are adult children taking care of their parents. As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of families coping with the challenges and costs of caring for elderly parents while caring for their own children will continue to grow. Just as the country addressed the needs of working moms and dads in the 1970s, we must now address the needs of our working daughters and sons.
- Ensuring that low-income Minnesotans receive heating assistance. The importance of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) cannot be overstated – especially in states like Minnesota that experience bitterly cold temperatures and lengthy winters. I believe that no Minnesota family should have to choose between heating their home and other basic necessities. That’s why I worked to include additional funding for LIHEAP in the CARES Act, which became law in March 2020.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I’ve been fighting to support families and children:
- Promoting long-term economic growth, good jobs, and higher wages for Minnesota families. I am fighting to strengthen the middle class by creating jobs, supporting unions, providing training and education, and sustaining families and workers to help them get ahead. In my first year in the Senate, we passed the first federal minimum wage increase in a decade. Since the passage of this legislation, I have fought for policies aimed at putting more money in the pockets of working Minnesotans, including increasing the minimum wage after more than a decade since the last increase. If we’re going to build a strong middle class, we need to make sure that Americans can work their way into it. That’s why I support increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. I also sponsored the Middle Class Opportunity Act, which would increase tax credits for child and dependent care and help families pay for higher education and support for aging parents. [See Jobs and the Economy]
- Fighting for child care and paid sick, family, and medical leave. Minnesota is a leader in providing paid sick leave, paid medical leave, and other policies that support working families. I am working to pass these bills on the national level. I cosponsor the Healthy Families Act led by Senator Murray of Washington to provide up to 7 days of annual paid sick leave, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act led by Senator Gillibrand of New York to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act led by Senator Casey of Pennsylvania to protect the rights of pregnant workers. I am also a cosponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act led by Senator Murray of Washington to make child care more affordable for families by ensuring no family under 150 percent of state median income pays more than 7 percent of their income on child care and improve training and compensation for the child care workforce. I also lead the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act with Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska to address the national shortage of child care providers and safe child care facilities by providing grants for states to train child care workers and build or renovate child care facilities in areas facing child care shortages. The March 2021 relief package also made important changes to the child tax credit by increasing the maximum amount for the upcoming year, as well as expanding eligibility for the child and dependent care tax credit and making the credit fully refundable for the upcoming year.
- Supporting working moms. I am working to make sure that women - especially mothers - have the support they need in the workforce as we rebuild our economy and strengthen the financial health of our families. We know that mothers have faced the brunt of the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why I introduced the Marshall Plan for Moms resolution to support mothers in the American workforce and call for the passage of a comprehensive set of relief programs that will support mothers as they reenter the workforce.
- Expanding health care coverage for children. I have consistently supported the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage to children who do not qualify for Medicaid and whose families cannot afford private insurance. CHIP supports health care coverage for approximately 9.6 million children. In February 2018, we successfully extended funding of the program through 2027.
- Making education more affordable by:
- Stopping increases in loan rates. The interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford student loans was set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2013. That is why I cosponsored the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act and the Student Loan Affordability Act to maintain for at least another year the federal student loan interest rate of 3.4 percent. I also worked to prevent the rate from immediately doubling in the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act that was signed into law in 2013.
- Allowing students to refinance loans at lower interest rates. I cosponsored the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act and the Reducing Education Debt Act, which takes several important steps to address the issue of student debt, including allowing student loan borrowers to refinance their student loan debt at lower interest rates and adjusting Pell Grants for inflation so that they keep pace with rising costs.
- Helping students with loan repayment and Pell grants. I worked to pass the College Cost Reduction Act, which created the income-based repayment plan and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and I supported the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which now saves middle-class families up to $2,500 a year on college tuition. I also worked to pass a law removing private lenders from the federal student loan system, which saved taxpayers nearly $68 billion and expanded Pell grants. We also successfully increased the maximum Pell grant award in March of 2018.
- Providing tuition-free access to two-year community, technical, and tribal colleges. I cosponsored the America’s College Promise Act to create a federal-state partnership that pays for two tuition-free years of school for students in community, technical, or tribal college programs that lead to an associate’s degree, an industry-recognized credential, or credits that are fully transferable to a four-year institution.
- Creating opportunities for training and credential programs and year-round education. I introduced legislation to expand the eligible uses of the ‘529’ tax-advantaged education savings accounts to allow these accounts to be used for training and credential programs that help workers develop the skills needed for 21st century jobs. I also cosponsored the Year-Round Pell Grant Restoration Act—passed in May of 2017—which restores eligibility for students to apply for Pell grants for summer classes, helping students who do not follow the traditional four-year college path afford higher education. Additionally, I introduced the Skills Renewal Act with Senator Ben Sasse to create a flexible skills training credit for people who have lost their job during coronavirus pandemic access training programs and develop skills that are expected to be in high demand in coming years.
- Expanding access to higher education for low-income and first-generation students. I have been a strong supporter of TRIO programs—including supporting funding increases that passed in March of 2018—that continue to provide fundamental support to low-income and first-generation students across Minnesota as they prepare to attend college.
- Improving student financial literacy. I introduced the Empowering Student Borrowers Act to help students understand the financial implications of student loan debt and these key provisions passed the Senate in March of 2018. This legislation requires institutions of higher education to notify students of their total loan obligations, expected monthly payment, and estimated interest rate, and requires the Department of Education to establish best practices for schools to teach financial literacy to students.
- Passing the most sweeping reform of our consumer product safety laws in decades. I was a chief author of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, which was signed into law in August 2008, to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission additional authority, resources, and staff to enforce consumer protection laws. The law contains three important provisions I wrote:
- The first provision bans lead in children's products. There had been no mandatory federal lead standard for children's products until the law was enacted.
- The second provision requires companies to stamp “batch numbers” on children’s products and their packaging, so that parents can quickly identify when products in their homes have been recalled by the government for safety reasons.
- The third provision bans industry-paid travel by members and staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Consumers must have confidence that their consumer regulators are free of influence from the industries they supervise.
- Protecting children from injuries and death during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, I introduced the bipartisan COVID Home Safety Act with Senator Moran to protect consumers from injuries and deaths related to consumer products during the coronavirus pandemic. Reports indicated that pediatricians and emergency room doctors had seen an increase in patients seeking treatment for home injuries, such as broken bones on bikes and trampolines as well accidental hand sanitizer poisoning in children. This legislation will help protect our children, seniors and other vulnerable populations from injuries and deaths caused by consumer products during and after the pandemic. While our bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee in November 2020, we are continuing to work to get it signed into law.
- Protecting consumers from unsafe wood imports and supporting our timber producers. I authored the bipartisan Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act, signed into law in 2009, to protect consumers from potentially hazardous levels of formaldehyde in composite wood products and to ensure the U.S. timber industry is on a level playing field with foreign competitors. I continue to push the Environmental Protection Agency to complete the implementation of this bill, hold importers accountable, and keep our families safe.
- Protecting children from unsafe products.
- IKEA recall. In February 2016, Ted McGee, a 22-month-old from Apple Valley, Minnesota, was killed by a falling IKEA Malm dresser. That same model dresser had previously killed or injured other children after tipping over, but IKEA was still selling the dressers and there was little information available about the danger. I urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and IKEA to take strong and definitive action to prevent future injuries and deaths from tip-overs of the Malm dresser. CPSC and IKEA later announced the largest furniture recall in U.S. history, agreed to stop sales of the dresser, and offered a full refund to consumers who had purchased Malm dressers. Following reports of the eighth death from a Malm tip-over in 2017, I renewed calls to the CPSC and IKEA to take action to protect children from dangerous furniture, and in November 2017, CPSC and IKEA relaunched the dresser recall. In 2016, I introduced legislation with Senators Casey and Blumenthal to direct the CPSC to adopt a stronger, mandatory stability standard for clothing storage units.
- Window blinds. According to data from the CPSC, nearly every month a child dies after becoming tangled in an exposed window cord. I pushed the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) to take advantage of new technologies and implement the strongest possible child safety protections. In June 2016, WCMA announced that it would update the voluntary safety standard for window coverings to eliminate exposed cords from virtually all window coverings and improve safety for children.
- Baby food. A February 2021 report released by the House Oversight Committee found that baby food produced by top brands contained dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals. Since consumption of these toxic heavy metals can have lifelong impacts on a baby’s health and neurological development, I worked on and led legislation with Congressman Krishnamoorthi of Illinois that would put standards and timelines in place to make sure baby food is free from these toxic heavy metals and pushed the FDA to take steps to address these toxic heavy metals through enforcement of existing authorities and implementation of new rules.
- Combating price gouging. We must be vigilant to make sure that markets are working for consumers, not against them. This is particularly important during times of crisis when some have sought to take advantage of consumers by charging excessive prices for everyday products that people need. Soon after we started seeing this type of price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic, I introduced a bill with Senators Blumenthal, Hirono, and Cortez Masto to prohibit these practices during emergencies. I have also called on the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department to ensure that they are doing everything in their power under existing law to stop unconscionable price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and I have worked together to highlight the need to protect consumers from price gouging during this public health crisis.
- Reforming our nation’s toxic chemicals policy. Our country’s primary law regulating the production and use of chemicals hadn’t been updated since its passage in 1976. That’s why I supported reforms that would keep our children and families safe from toxic substances while providing businesses with clear standards for developing new products. The Senate bill that updated the Toxic Substances Control Act, which I cosponsored, was signed into law in June 2016.
- Passing a new law to protect children from unsafe swimming pools. In December 2007, legislation that I helped write to improve the safety of our nation’s public swimming pools was signed into law by President Bush. I took a personal interest in the issue of dangerous swimming pool drains after a horrific incident in the summer of 2007, when six-year-old Abigail Taylor of Edina, Minnesota, was partly disemboweled by the powerful suction of a wading pool drain. After months of surgeries and hospital care, Abigail tragically died from complications from those injuries. It turns out this was not an isolated incident. Government statistics showed dozens of cases in which children were injured or trapped by the powerful suction of these pool drains. Yet, legislation to correct the problem had been stalled in Congress for years. After consulting with the Taylor family and national child safety experts, I wrote two crucial amendments to the pool safety legislation that had been pending before Congress for years. One provision made tough new safety standards retroactive to existing pools that are intended for public use and the other required public pools with single drains to install the latest drain safety technology. Both amendments were included in the final bill. One of my proudest moments as a senator was the night I called Abigail's father, Scott Taylor, to tell him we had adopted the legislation and that President Bush was signing it into law. According to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) testimony, since the law’s enactment, there were not any deaths caused by pool drains at public pools in the United States.
- Keeping children safe from predators – both on the streets and on the internet. I cosponsored the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which helps parents protect their children from inappropriate website content by requiring the Administration to implement a national educational campaign to promote the safe use of the Internet by children and to create a private sector working group to evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety. And I have worked to combat the heartbreaking crime of child abuse by introducing the National Child Protection Training Act, which would help train child protection professionals, such as teachers, doctors, and prosecutors, to detect and prevent child abuse. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, I will continue to fight for additional protections to safeguard children against predators – both on the streets and online. [See Public Safety]
- Strengthening our childhood nutrition programs. I helped lead the passage of the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was signed into law in December 2010, to overhaul the major domestic food assistance programs that serve the nutritional needs of 30 million American children each day. I opposed efforts to roll back this important law, which expands access to child nutrition programs to address childhood obesity, improves the nutritional quality of meals to promote health, and will help reduce childhood hunger. The law also included my legislation to improve nutrition standards for meals served in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and to provide health education and guidance for childcare providers. I also fought to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set new nutrition standards for all food served in schools, from lunchrooms to vending machines. I supported the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016, otherwise known as the reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, when it passed the Senate Agriculture Committee in January 2016. The bill included provisions I authored to improve nutrition education, best practices, and training and technical assistance, which will help support healthy school meals, and preserves important reforms to school nutrition rules. We need to continue to build on the progress we’ve made in tackling the epidemic of childhood obesity. In addition, with many children out of school and taking classes remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, I worked to include an additional $8.8 billion in funding for child nutrition programs in the CARES Act to help ensure that children continue receiving meals even while they are staying home from school.
- Advocating for adoptive families and children. As the Senate co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I will continue to fight both in Washington and in Minnesota to advocate for adoptive families and children. My office has worked closely with adoptive Minnesota families to help them bring their children home from countries such as Guatemala, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Russia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have fought for adoptive families and children by:
- Uniting children with families. Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Minnesota families who had pending Haitian adoptions began contacting my office for help bringing their children home. Over the course of approximately two months following the earthquake, my office worked with 25 families to help unite 39 Haitian children with their new families in Minnesota.
- Completing adoption cases. I have worked to help families impacted by the Russian government’s ban on American adoption of Russian children and called on the Russian government to allow for the completion of adoption cases that were initiated prior to the ban.
- Cutting red tape for adoptive families. I authored the bipartisan Accuracy for Adoptees Act, signed into law by President Obama in early 2014, which cuts red tape for adoptive families and ensures that corrections made to adoptees’ birth certificates by state courts would be recognized by the federal government.
- Strengthening pre-and post-adoption services. In 2019, I introduced the Supporting Adoptive Families Act, which would help provide pre-and post-adoption support services, including mental health treatment, to help adoptive families stay strong.
- Helping adopted siblings stay together. I also authored and passed the International Adoption Simplification Act to help siblings stay together during an international adoption and protect adoptees from unsafe immunizations in foreign countries.
- Improving the lives of children abroad. I introduced the Vulnerable Children and Families Act with Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri in 2017. This legislation will help ensure that our government is working in partnership with other countries to ensure that the more than 15 million children living without families can grow up in a permanent, safe, nurturing, and loving family. In 2021, I introduced the Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act to provide the Secretary of State the authority to establish an Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee within the Bureau of Consular Affairs to enhance the intercountry adoption process and ensure that the diverse voices within the adoption community are considered in advance of new policies being developed and programs being implemented.
- Supporting people with disabilities and their families. I support fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to help students with disabilities receive the services they need, and I am a cosponsor of legislation to put Congress on a fiscally responsible path to fully fund this critical law. I also worked to get the Achieving a Better Life Experience – or ABLE – Act signed into law, which allows people with disabilities to use tax-advantaged savings accounts to cover expenses like education, transportation, and housing without putting other support they count on at risk. I am also a cosponsor of bipartisan legislation to expand these ABLE accounts to people who develop a disability before they turn 46 rather than 26 under current law, allowing families to transfer funds saved in a 529 education savings account into an ABLE account without incurring a tax penalty, and increasing the amount that people with disabilities can save in an ABLE account if they are working and earning an income. In addition, I have fought to protect against cuts to the Medicaid program, which covers 40 percent of people with disabilities in our country, and to prevent people with pre-existing conditions from losing access to their health insurance coverage. I was a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act, which stopped insurance companies from denying people coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
- Helping families to recover missing loved ones, including children with disabilities and seniors with dementia. I introduced legislation with Senator Grassley to help families locate missing loved ones with Alzheimer’s, autism, or related conditions, which was signed into law in March of 2018. The bill, called Kevin and Avonte’s Law, reauthorizes, extends, and doubles the funding level of the expired Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program and expands it to people with developmental disabilities who are at increased risk of wandering. It also expands access to resources for first responders and law enforcement to make sure they’re equipped with technology that can help save lives and that they’re getting the right training.
- Assisting families in caring for seniors. I introduced the Americans Giving Care to Elders Act, which would establish a federal tax credit to assist with the costs of caring for an aging family member. Additionally, I introduced the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Act with Senator Collins from Maine in 2021 to expand training and support services for families and caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. I also cosponsored the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act, which would strengthen federal support of Alzheimer’s research and improve the benefit structure under Medicare. [See Seniors]
- Ensuring that low-income Minnesotans receive heating assistance. I have consistently supported increased heating assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). When the Trump Administration proposed eliminating LIHEAP in the budget, I urged the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to reconsider and I was part of a bipartisan effort that helped save the program. And as many Minnesotans are experiencing the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, I worked to ensure that the CARES Act included an additional $900 million in funding for LIHEAP. I will continue fighting to ensure that low-income households across Minnesota can meet their energy needs and avoid having to choose between heating their homes and other basic necessities.