(This article originally appeared on The Hill)
Do you think the government will spend the trillions proposed inefficiently and wastefully and expand its reach beyond control? Do you worry about the long-term impact that this spending – on top of the trillions already spent – will have on our national debt, deficits and the economy overall? Are you anxious that all the proposed tax increases to fund the bill will not just affect “the wealthy” but also trickle down to affect you and hold back economic growth?
You’re not alone. I share those concerns. But the $3.5 trillion American Families Plan just this week moved one step closer to reality after the House passed a budget resolution that will act as a framework to move the bill forward. Yes, this will pass. Yes, this will be signed into law. It’s going to happen.
But before you throw your hands up in disgust, please allow me, a small business owner who also opposes government expansion, to ease your concerns. I may not convince you to support the American Families Plan. But maybe, just maybe, I can help defend it from a business perspective by offering a few reasons why the plan may benefit our businesses.
For starters, workers would likely miss less time at work.
The plan would provide funding to help states offer free, high-quality, accessible and inclusive preschool to all three-and four-year-olds, which some estimates say would benefit more than five million children. It would limit the amount of child care expenses a working family would pay to up to 7 percent of income for all children under the age of five. It would expand child care options to include more educational centers, providers and organizations like Early Head Start. It would also supplement more payments to child care workers with the hope of attracting a better quality of caregivers.
From a tax perspective, the plan would extend previous stimulus-related child tax credit increases through 2025 and make the child tax credit permanently fully refundable, which could save families thousands of dollars in child care costs. It would also permanently increase the existing tax credits that support families with child care needs and make permanent the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) expansion from previous stimulus bills for childless workers.
The impact on your business and mine? Less time off to deal with child care issues and less pressure on employers to provide these benefits in order to attract and retain workers with young children. More hours worked for lower costs. So far, so good.
Next, the bill could help create a higher skilled workforce for us.
The plan would offer two years of free community college to all Americans, including some immigrants. It would also offer up to approximately $1,400 in additional assistance to low-income students, provide two years of subsidized tuition and expand programs in high-demand fields at historically black and tribal colleges and universities as well as institutions of higher learning that serve minority populations.
In addition, there would be a $62 billion grant program to invest in completion and retention activities at colleges and universities that serve high numbers of low-income students, particularly community colleges. There will also be funding to better prepare teachers for quality classroom instruction.
Will this improve worker skills? It certainly can’t hurt. If you’re like every client of mine, you – like me – probably complain about the lack of skilled workers for our jobs, and we shake at our heads at the millions of unfilled positions that remain open because people don’t have the expertise to do the work. Given time, this funding may very well help us recruit a better educated, better prepared employee. I like that. Don’t you?
Better paid time off provisions would help us compete with bigger companies.
The plan seeks to expand our current Family and Medical Leave Act by guaranteeing up to 12 weeks of paid parental, family and personal illness/safe leave by year 10 of the program, and also ensure workers get three days of bereavement leave per year starting in year one. The $225 billion program will provide workers up to $4,000 a month, with a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages replaced, rising to 80 percent for the lowest wage workers.
Yeah, all this moves us closer to the nanny state. But then again, many of the corporate brands that we compete against offer paid leave benefits that we don’t have the resources to match. With the government stepping in, we won’t have to provide those benefits or worry about losing good employees to competitors with deeper pockets. This would help level the playing field for both recruiting and retaining workers.
Finally, our health care costs could go down.
The legislation would extend the expanded health care tax credits provided in previous stimulus legislation, which the White House predicts would help as many as nine million people save hundreds of dollars per year on their premiums, and provide coverage for four million uninsured people. For me, the more assistance the government can give to our employees to help pay for their health care, the more incentive they may have to find health care plans on the ObamaCare exchanges, which means I won’t have to pay for their health care.
Okay, I admit that there are a lot of “coulds” here. Nothing’s for certain. And it’s a lot of money to gamble. But did I convince you anyway? At least partly? Did I help mitigate some of your concerns?
As a business owner, you, like me, have genuine apprehensions about the enormous cost of the American Families Plan. But if we collectively accept reality, take a deep breath and objectively look at some of the plan’s provisions, I think we both have to agree that, making the big assumption that this whole thing passes as planned, our business likely will see many benefits in the long term.