Donald Trump formally unveiled his child care and maternity plan with his daughter Ivanka Trump this evening. The issue has become a signature issue for Ivanka Trump, who spoke fervently about the topic during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
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Speaking in a community center gymnasium, Donald Trump spoke of his desire for reform. "Child care is such a big problem. We're going to solve that problem," he said. "That means we need working mothers to be fairly compensated for their work and have access to affordable, quality child care for their kids. That's what we're doing."
As his daughter introduced him, she recalled an anecdote she read, about a woman who left her children in a hot car because she couldn't find child care as she went on an interview.
"Out of options, she made the tragic choice to leave her young children in a hot car while she attempted to secure the job in order to better the life of her family," Ivanka Trump said. "As I have traveled around the country with my father, stories about the hardships caused by our existing child care system — one that is too expensive, too outdated and too inaccessible — come up time and time again."
The core components of Donald Trump's proposal include allowing working parents to deduct child care expenses from their income taxes, creating dependent care savings accounts and guaranteeing six weeks of paid maternity leave.
Currently, federal law guarantees only 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for most employees.
Trump — joined by five female members of Congress, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn,, who also spoke — said his maternity plan would be self-financing.
"Finally, our plan offers a crucial safety net for working mothers whose employers do not provide paid maternity leave. This solution will receive strong bipartisan support," he said. "When you go to the other side, they will be OK. I'm hearing they will be. We will get them to be OK, right? And we will be completely self-financing."
The plan accounts for lower-income families with no tax liability; they would receive rebates through the existing earned income tax credit.
"Families with a stay-at-home parent will be able to fully deduct the average cost of child care from their taxes," the Republican nominee said, as a few women in the crowd said, "Wow." "It's a big thing. I'm hearing 'Wow.' I like to hear 'Wow.'"
Under Trump's plan, tax-deductible child care would be capped at the average cost of care for the state of residence and would be available only to individuals earning less than $250,000 (or $500,000 for parents who file their tax returns jointly).
But Aparna Mathur, the resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, still questions the efficacy of the plan for lower-income families. She told ABC News that the EITC already provides households with a 40 to 45 cent tax credit for every dollar they earn. She says the details of this plan are not clear.
"So is the idea to expand the size of the EITC credit to help households with higher child care costs? How much would the EITC increase by? And what would be the cost?" she asks. "The EITC is already far more generous for families with children, so it seems likely that this kind of expansion would be pretty costly."
The Republican nominee is expected to outline how he would pay for these initiatives later in the week, though a campaign aide said that the plan falls under the larger economic and tax plan, which proposed amending the tax code to increase revenue.
Mathur also says that the dependent care savings accounts aren't necessarily helpful for low-income families. "If low-income families were good at saving, this could have provided an added incentive at the margin. But the real problem is that most low-income households are unable to save or plan for financial emergencies, so these accounts are likely to help people who already are good at saving and planning, i.e., middle- and higher-income households," she said.
Trump's plan would allow stay-at-home parents to receive a tax deduction. A Trump campaign aide said that businesses would receive tax incentives to provide on-site child care, though federal law already contains a similar provision. The aide said that the plan would simplify rules and regulations to make such a benefit more attractive.
Hillary Clinton's senior policy adviser, Maya Harris, in a statement said, "After spending his entire career — and this entire campaign — demeaning women and dismissing the need to support working families, Donald Trump released a regressive and insufficient 'maternity leave' policy that is out-of-touch, half-baked and ignores the way Americans live and work today."
Clinton's plan calls for 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave.
Though Trump never mentioned Clinton's name, her specter loomed large tonight. "It's time to free ourselves from the baskets that politicians try to put us into and always have put us into and, instead, to work together," Trump said. "I think you know what I mean ... I think you know what I'm talking about."
He alluded to her "basket of deplorables" comment once more.
"While my opponent slanders you as deplorable and irredeemable, I call you hardworking American patriots who love your country, love your families and want a better future for all Americans."