ASTON, Pa. – Donald Trump rolled out a plan Tuesday aimed at making child care more affordable, guaranteeing new mothers six weeks of paid maternity leave and suggesting new incentives for employees to provide their workers childcare. Spurred on by his daughter, Ivanka, Trump waded into topics more often discussed by Democrats.
Trump unveiled the proposals in a speech in a politically critical Philadelphia suburb as he tries to build his appeal with more moderate, independent voters — especially women. Child care is one of the biggest expenses many American families face, surpassing the cost of college and even housing in many states.
"We need working mothers to be fairly compensated for their work, and to have access to affordable, quality child care for their kids," Trump said in Aston, Pennsylvania. "These solutions must update laws passed more than half a century ago when most women were still not in the labor force."
Trump proposed guaranteeing six weeks of paid maternity leave to employees whose employers don't offer leave already. The campaign says the payments would be provided through existing unemployment insurance — though it has yet to spell out how the system would cover those costs.
Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, has called for 12 weeks parental leave for both mothers and fathers paid for by taxes on the wealthy.
Trump previously proposed reducing child care costs by allowing parents to fully deduct the average cost of child care from their taxes. On Tuesday, he expanded that proposal to allow families with a stay-at-home parent to qualify for the deduction and to include costs associated with caring for elderly dependent relatives.
The deduction would apply only to individuals earning $250,000 or less, or $500,000 or less if filing jointly. But because Trump's proposal is a tax deduction rather than credit, its greatest benefits would go to affluent households. More than 40 percent of U.S. taxpayers don't make enough money to owe taxes to the federal government, meaning they would not benefit from a deduction. Lower-income earners would receive child-care spending rebates through expanding the existing Earned Income Tax Credit, the campaign said.
Trump also proposed incentives for employers to provide child-care options at work. But some of his proposals to prod businesses and communities into providing childcare and other services are anathema to conservative orthodoxy.
At one point, Trump was interrupted briefly by a crying baby — but, unlike at a rally in August, he did not suggest he wanted the child ejected.
The timing, location and subject matter are no coincidence. Democratic presidential candidates have won Pennsylvania since 1992, but Trump hopes to flip the battleground to win the White House in November. And Trump has been trying to soften his image among college-educated women who have been reluctant to support a candidate who has made many derogatory remarks toward women.
Ivanka Trump introduced Trump in Pennsylvania and, earlier in the day in Iowa, the candidate credited his daughter for his action on the issue. "She is the one who has been pushing for it so hard: 'Daddy, Daddy we have to do this.' She's very smart, and she's right," the candidate said.
The timing raised some eyebrows among skeptics.
"Given the late-breaking nature of this policy proposal it's hard not to feel like it's a pretty naked attempt to speak to women voters less than 60 days before the election," said Vivien Labaton of Make It Work Action, which pushes for increased child care access.
Trump laid out plans to create "Dependent Care Savings Accounts" that would allow families to set aside money to look after children or elderly parents. The accounts would allow tax-deductible contributions and tax-free appreciation and could be used to pay for child care, after-school programs and school tuition. To help lower-income parents, the government would match half of the first $1,000 deposited per year.
For elderly dependents, the accounts could be used to help pay for services including in-home nursing and long-term care.
Currently, families can set aside up to $5000 annually for child care expenses or elder care but not for school tuition and cannot carry over the amount in the account.
Trump did not lay out how much the proposals would cost, but insisted the extra spending would be offset by economic growth and other cuts.
Clinton, meanwhile, proposes that no family should spend more than 10 percent of its income on child care. To achieve this, Clinton would seek to boost federal spending on child-care subsidies and provide "tax relief for the cost of child care to working families." Those benefits would be offered on a sliding scale based on need, though Clinton has offered few other details since introducing the plan in May.