Federal resources would support state, providers and families facing financial hardship

Washington, DC-- Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-5), Vice Chair of the House Democrat Caucus and Appropriations Committee member, joined with Reps. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Joe Kennedy (MA-4), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) and eight other members of Congress to call for the inclusion of over $21 billion in child care funding to support states, families, and child care providers in the wake of the COVID-19 national emergency. Members are asking for federal dollars to be included in the third stimulus package currently being drafted by Congress. 

“Child care is the backbone of our nation’s economy. Yet, for decades, we have failed to invest the public dollars needed to ensure that all families have access to high-quality, affordable child care and that providers are well-compensated for their critical work,” wrote the members. “The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the unfortunate consequences of a long-time underinvestment in our child care infrastructure, and therefore, immediate action must be taken to address these gaps for child care providers, educators, families.”

Child care providers that have been forced to close because of COVID-19 have stopped receiving the revenue necessary to pay their staff and other operational costs. As a result, the longer this crisis goes on, the more providers that will be forced to close their business permanently. A survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) of more than 6,000 providers from March 12-16 showed that 30% of providers would not survive a closure of more than 2 weeks. In other words, they will not survive without direct public investment to cover operational and staffing costs.

Moreover, some providers are forced to stay open to support essential workers in health care, grocery, transportation, and other critical industries and many lack the resources necessary for additional cleaning supplies, staff hazard pay, substitute teachers, paid sick leave, and health-related training.

On the other end of the equation, families facing jobs loss or reduced hours are experiencing financial insecurity. These families should not be forced to pay for child care during this time when their finances are stretched so thin. Simultaneously, providers should not be expected to make up the difference between what families can pay and what it costs to care for children. 

The letter calls for financial resources to:

  • Pay providers to cover their ongoing operating costs when they are closed so their financial security, and the security of educators they employ, is not threatened. This must include centers as well as home-based providers and other subsidized, informal care arrangements.
  • Eliminate copayments or tuition for families during this crisis and ensure that providers are still paid the full amount for that enrolled slot. 
  • Provide paid leave for educators and provide funding to providers to fully cover this cost.
  • Find and pay for substitute educators, where needed and when available.
  • Provide higher levels of compensation such as hazard pay for child care providers and educators serving children of frontline workers or operating for longer hours.
  • Help state or local agencies or other organizations keep track of child care programs that are closing and those that have available slots, in order to identify child care providers that may need assistance and to match supply and demand.
  • Purchase materials for providers that cannot afford or even find supplies on their own.
  • Pay for staff at call centers and child care resource and referral agencies to respond to the needs of child care workers, including to assist them in offering guidance to the families they serve as they cope with the current crisis.
  • Provide training and medical support for child care providers on health and safety practices in response to the virus, available in all relevant languages.

View the full letter here.

Additionally, House Democrats are calling on the third stimulus package to include expanded paid leave, unemployment insurance, cash payments, housing assistance, and other supports for families and communities. The supports should be designed so that all child care providers and educators, whether in centers, home-based providers, or other subsidized, informal care arrangements, can participate and take advantage of the benefits. 

Congress is hoping to move a third stimulus package in the coming week.