As child care centers struggle to recover from the pandemic, and parents search for options as they return to work, Massachusetts lawmakers are proposing an overhaul of the industry.

A proposal to create a system of universal child care in the state over the next five years has more than 80 co-sponsors in the Legislature and would pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the industry.

Backers say the proposal will provide expanded child care options for parents returning to work, and will help fill a void in early education opportunities that existed prior to the pandemic.

…Under the plan, households earning less than half the state’s median income would qualify for free child care. Households earning more than that would pay on a sliding scale that would be capped at 7% of their annual income.

The measure would provide funding for child care providers based on their capacity, replacing a system that now provides funding based on attendance.

To fund the changes, the plan calls for a massive infusion of more than $600 million into child care and after-school programs over the next five years.

Child care centers are still financially strained in the aftermath of last year’s shutdown and advocates say the cost of caring for kids under the state’s COVID-19 safety protocols are putting some providers out of business.

…In Congress, U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, refiled a bill last week to invest $10 billion in child care over five years through grants that help providers renovate their facilities and adapt to the pandemic. The bill passed the House in the previous session but stalled in the then-Republican-controlled Senate.

Clark, who serves as assistant speaker of the House, said her proposal “recognizes child care for what it is — an essential piece of our economic infrastructure.”

“Just like our roads and bridges, child care fuels our economy and allows parents, businesses and kids to thrive,” she said in a prepared statement. “We must make the long-term investments in this sector to ensure the collapse caused by COVID-19 never happens again.”


Original story here.