In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced this bill to provide $50 billion in pandemic assistance to the child care industry:
“The workers and small business owners that care for our children while we work desperately need the federal government’s help. The COVID-19 pandemic has our nation on the precipice of an economic catastrophe the likes of which we have never seen, and child care providers are facing financial ruin. To date, the Congress has provided much needed funding to deal with the crisis—passing a $3.5 billion infusion in the CARES Act and $7 billion in the House-passed Heroes Act—but now needs to do much more to meet the demands of this historic moment. That is why we must invest $50 billion to support our nation’s working families and this critical industry in our economy. I urge my colleagues in the Appropriations Committee and throughout the Congress to join us in this effort.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), sponsor of this bill’s Senate companion, says:
"We absolutely cannot overlook the critical role child care will play in our nation’s ability to recover from the current COVID-19 crisis. Right now, frontline workers are relying on access to child care in order to keep our communities safe, healthy and fed. Yet, our entire child care system is struggling to keep doors open for families. I have talked to child care providers across Washington state and each one of them has told me that their business just can’t survive this crisis without support. We have long had a child care crisis in this country, but if the federal government doesn’t step up immediately, not only will frontline workers be unable to stay on the job, but families across the country might not have child care providers to return to once our economy opens up. Every day we wait the child care crisis worsens—we have to do everything we can to make sure that all families—not just the wealthiest families—have access to child care right now, and in the future.”
The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) is among a number of women’s advocacy organizations supporting this legislation. Its President and CEO, Fatima Goss Graves, says:
“This crisis has laid bare how dependent our entire economy is on access to affordable, high-quality child care. The labor of essential workers is made possible by this diverse, women-led industry, without whom millions of working parents will not be able to return to their jobs. The child care industry has long been undervalued by a worldview that sees women and the jobs we perform as less deserving and less essential, and any attempt to reopen our economy must not make that same mistake. We applaud the leadership of Senator Murray and Representatives DeLauro and Scott in seeking the robust investment sorely needed by child care providers, working families, and an entire generation of children.”
The NWLC’s director of child care and early learning, Catherine White, adds that child care is an essential element of helping parents, and particularly women, get back to work:
“Parents, especially women, will not have the care they need to go back to work or school, employers will be unable to restart without workers, and our economic recovery will be jeopardized… Child care is the invisible support that’s been underpinning our economy and job system for decades.”
The Center for American Progress (CAP) supports this legislation. Its Vice President of Early Childhood Policy, Katie Hamm, says:
“Without robust federal investments like those made under this bill, nearly half of the country’s child care supply is at risk of permanent closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. This toll would suppress America’s ability to rebound from this crisis by making it impossible for parents to find child care, driving up its already unaffordable price, and costing tens of thousands of child care workers—most of whom are women and people of color—their jobs. To help our economy and families thrive, and to give employers certainty that child care won’t prevent their workers from returning to work, Congress should pass this bill and the president should sign it immediately.”
Chris Herbst, an associate professor studying public policy at Arizona State and the author of a new paper on child care supply, warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could permanently alter parents’ child care preferences. For example, parents who prioritize safety may choose to keep children home or prioritize small programs with stringent COVID-19 prevention measures. If there’s a mismatch between the child care services that government supports and the child care services that parents prefer, Herbst warns, the government could “end up propping up the wrong set of businesses,” which would be inefficient.
Senate Republicans, who have urged restraint in future coronavirus relief spending, are demanding that any future COVID-19 relief legislation be narrowly targeted. Given this, it’s unclear whether they’ll support this legislation’s high level of investment.
This legislation has 140 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 139 Democrats and one Republican. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), has 36 Senate cosponsors, including 34 Democrats and two Independents.
More than 80 national organizations, including the Center for American Progress (CAP), MomsRising, National Women’s Law Center, and Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), support this legislation.
Of Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt the child care sector significantly. Over half of childcare providers have closed during the pandemic. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), without assistance to childcare providers, up to 4.5 million child care slots could be lost permanently.
To date, Congress has given the child care sector $3.5 billion in pandemic funding in the CARES Act. The House has also passed $10 billion in the Moving Forward Act, which finances grants to improve child-care centers and help them fund construction, renovations, and improvements to address both longstanding issues and new challenges posed by COVID-19. An additional $7 billion in the HEROES Act (which hasn’t been considered in the Senate due to Republican opposition) is also pending. The White House has issued statements of administration policy opposing both the HEROES Act and Moving Forward Act.
However, the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) contends that much more assistance is needed. In a March child care coalition, the CWLA and others wrote:
“Because child care is a $99 billion industry, much larger and ongoing investments will be needed to preserve the child care system so that it works for children, families, educators, businesses, and our nation’s economy. Child care’s essential status demands dedicated relief that acknowledges the unique needs of a system that was already teetering on the edge of financial viability before this pandemic. Specifically, we request that Congress provide at least $50 billion in total funding dedicated to child care to offer immediate relief to providers, educators, and families during this crisis.”
In a recent estimate, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) found that it would take at least $9.6 billion per month to keep current child care providers solvent.
According to CAP, the need for assistance is especially acute among child care providers in communities of color; such businesses may struggle to access small-business loans, such as those through the PPP, due to systemic discrimination in banking practices, the wealth gap, and higher debt.
Some states, including Vermont, Minnesota, Indiana, North Dakota, and Tennessee, have already taken action to stabilize child care providers on their own. These states are using emergency grant programs, tuition replacement, and other forms of support to keep child care providers within their borders afloat during the pandemic.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / FamVeld)