‘If we let critical child care stabilization funding expire, things are only going to get worse.’
Senate and House Democrats this week introduced the Child Care Stabilization Act, which would provide $16 billion in mandatory federal funds each year over the next five years to prevent tens of thousands of child care facilities across the country from having to shut their doors.
At the end of September, pandemic-era stabilization begins to wind down. Advocates say the loss of funding could cause as many as 3.2 million kids to lose access to child care, more than 70,000 facilities could close and more than 225,000 workers in the industry could lose their jobs. You can see a state-by-state list of estimated losses here.
At a news conference held just outside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, speakers warned that allowing the stabilization funding to expire on September 30 would be devastating for the nation’s economy.
“There was a child care crisis even before the pandemic – and failing to extend these critical investments from the American Rescue Plan will push child care even further out of reach for millions of families and jeopardize our strong economic recovery,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This is an urgent economic priority at every level: child care is what allows parents to go to work, businesses to hire workers, and it’s an investment in our kids’ futures. The child care industry holds up every sector of our economy – and Congress must act now.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said everywhere he goes in his state, businesses tell him their number one problem and challenge is hiring workers. He noted over 80,000 kids in the Commonwealth of Virginia could lose access to child care and 2,800 workers could lose their jobs.
“Parents are locked out of the workforce because they can’t find care for their kids,” he said. “Workers who are passionate about child care are being squeezed out of their field because they can’t pay their bills. If we let critical child care stabilization funding expire, things are only going to get worse.”
Speakers at Wednesday’s news conference said the pandemic support allowed as many as 220,000 providers nationwide to remain afloat, serving 10 million kids. It is that support that is at risk.
“During the pandemic, Democrats answered the call of parents and providers and invested $39 billion into our child care system,” said Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA). “This historic relief funding allowed parents to return to work, businesses to survive, and our economy to recover. We can’t turn back now. Child care is economic infrastructure – it is critical to growing the economy by growing the middle class.”
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) drew a comparison between the expiration of the stabilization funds and Congress’ earlier decision not to extend the expanded Child Tax Credit.
“The most recent poverty data from the Census Bureau underscore the importance of continuing policies that help families make ends meet,” he said. “Now is not the time to abandon the federal investments that kept child care centers afloat and helped families find affordable care.”
The legislation introduced this week has 35 Senate sponsors and 78 House sponsors. Among them is Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), who says her state could lose more than 1,000 child care centers if the stabilization funding is not extended.
“We know that child care isn’t just a women’s issue – it’s an economic issue for families and businesses alike,” she said. “As a mother of four school-age children, I know firsthand many of the challenges parents navigate when searching for affordable child care, and I’m going to continue fighting for them to bring costs down and keep doors open across New Jersey.”
Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), himself a brand new father, was spotted in the early days of the current Congress on the House floor toting his infant in a sling. “I founded the first-ever Congressional Dads Caucus to do our part to bring fathers’ voices to the fight for legislation that uplifts working families – and affordable, accessible, and high-quality child care is an essential part of our agenda,” he said.
Groups endorsing the Child Care Stabilization Act include the Coalition on Human Needs, National Women’s Law Center, ZERO TO THREE, Center for Law and Social Policy, National Association for the Education of Young Children, Children’s Defense Fund, SEIU, AFSMCE, Oxfam America, Community Change Action, First Focus Campaign for Children, and YWCA-USA. You can find a one-page fact sheet about the legislation here and read the actual text here. On Thursday, the White House also endorsed the effort.
“This legislation is needed now more than ever,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “If we can afford to spend over $1 trillion on tax breaks for the top one percent and large corporations making record-breaking profits, we can afford to provide working class families with the child care they desperately need.”
Policymakers and advocates are working tirelessly to seize opportunities to increase funding for child care, while simultaneously sounding the alarm on proposed cuts to early childhood and other education programs. As spending battles continue in Congress, we hope there will a chance to address these child care needs.