The Federal Election Commission unanimously approved New York mother Liuba Grechen Shirley’s request to use some of her campaign funds for child care
Running for office just became a little easier for parents.
The Federal Election Commission ruled on Thursday that a New York woman running for Congress can use some of her campaign funds to pay for a babysitter for her two toddlers, The Hill reported.
Liuba Grechen Shirley, 36, submitted a request to the FEC in April to use a portion of her campaign dollars to cover the $440 a week she is already spending on child care, which the Democratic candidate needs to bump up even more so that she can effectively campaign against 13-term Republican incumbent Pete King for New York’s 2nd District.
Grechen Shirley told Newsweek last month that her babysitter, who has been watching 3-year-old daughter Mila and 2-year-old son Nicholas part-time for $22 an hour, “is just as important as my campaign manager or my finance director. She’s just as integral, and she’s paid as staff. I couldn’t run my campaign without her.”
In her letter to the FEC, she cited two cases from 1995 and 2008 in which male candidates had asked to use campaign funds to pay for more limited child-care expenses, writing, “As the primary election approaches, I expect to need full-time care for my children, along with additional support on evenings and weekends, so that I can devote the time necessary to run a successful campaign.”
WE WON! Thank you to the FEC Commissioners for their unanimous vote to approve our request to use campaign funds for childcare! This is a game changer for women and parents considering a run for office. pic.twitter.com/FUfrxXOmVS
— Liuba GrechenShirley (@liuba4congress) May 10, 2018
Former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also supported the unprecedented request last month, writing her own letter to the commission stating that “denying Ms. Shirley’s request would undermine the Commission’s previous advisory opinions, discourage young mothers from seeking elective office, and deprive parents of ordinary means of the opportunity to serve … Young women like Ms. Shirley are now running for office in record-breaking numbers … Under a plain reading of the law, as applied to Ms. Shirley’s facts, the answer to her question can only be ‘yes.'”
The Commission unanimously ruled in favor of Grechen Shirley’s argument on Thursday, making her the first woman able to use campaign funds to cover child care so that she can focus on her campaign. “The Commission concludes that your authorized campaign committee may use campaign funds to pay for the childcare expenses described in your request because such expenses would not exist irrespective of your candidacy,” the FEC wrote. This will apply to all future candidates who require child care to run for office.
Working parents across the country of both parties are feeling the same financial strain. The average cost of child care is $8,600 to $8,700 a year nationally, according to Child Care Aware of America’s most recent report — but that can vary widely from state to state. More than 10.2% of a married couple’s household income is required to cover the child care costs for just one child — and single parents are forking more than a third (35.6%) of their income for child care for one child. “No matter how you look at the statistics, child care is unaffordable for families across the country,” warns the report.
Thank YOU for leading the way on this issue. https://t.co/3q5HPD3uv6
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) April 27, 2018
“This is a landmark decision for women across the country. I’m proud to be the first woman in the nation to spend federal campaign funds on childcare—and I hope this decision inspires thousands of women across the country to run for office. If we want leaders who will stand up for women and working families, then we need to remove the barriers that keep women and working parents from running,” said Grechen Shirley in a statement. “There’s a reason more than half of Congressmembers are millionaires: running for office takes a huge toll on a family’s budget, especially while raising children. This groundbreaking decision will remove a major financial obstacle for working families and mothers at a time when women are increasingly considering elected office.”
It’s becoming an unprecedented year for parents in politics. Sen. Tammy Duckworth became the first sitting senator to give birth while serving in office — and also became the first parent to bring her baby onto the Senate floor last month.
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