Chip makers must provide child care to tap semiconductor industry fund

The Biden administration will require companies that tap $39 billion in funding for semiconductor manufacturing to provide affordable child care for their workers, under rules due to be published Tuesday. 

The regulations will mandate that firms receiving incentives under the Chips and Science Act, passed last year, take steps such as building day-care facilities near new manufacturing sites, or giving workers money to pay the costs through existing local options, according to the Commerce Department, which is in charge of the law’s implementation.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has repeatedly talked about how a lack of child care is holding back people, particularly women, from returning to the workforce since the start of the pandemic in 2020. 

President Joe Biden had proposed measures to improve child care provision as part of social spending programs worth hundreds of billions of dollars that failed to win approval in Congress. The administration is now seeking to use the semiconductor legislation to achieve that goal in at least one sliver of the economy. Firms will be able to use some of the funds they get through the government subsidy program to pay for child care.

Congress passed the law last year after pandemic lockdowns and supply-chain disruption laid bare US reliance on chips from Asia and particularly Taiwan, the target of frequent threats from China. 

While the law’s guiding goal is protecting national security, Raimondo in a speech last week underlined the benefits to women from the law, in terms of potential jobs in manufacturing and construction.

“We need chip manufacturers, construction companies and unions to work with us toward the national goal of hiring and training another million women in construction over the next decade to meet the demand not just in chips, but other industries and infrastructure projects as well,” she said.

The plans to include child care in the semiconductor award requirements were previously reported by the New York Times.

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