BOSTON (SHNS) – Twelve months into the pandemic, the importance of day care and early education has become clearer than ever. Many parents working from home have either had to juggle child-rearing and careers or leave the workforce while the industry adjusts to operating under COVID-19 protocols.

Congress expanded tax credits for child care and invested over $50 billion in early education through a series of packages, and U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark has a $10 billion plan to upgrade child care facilities that she hopes to weave into a massive infrastructure package being developed by the White House.

House Speaker Ron Mariano said Thursday the issue hasn’t escaped his notice either. “It’s moving to the forefront because it is an issue in reopening, and the governor has recognized that and put forth a plan to both the Senate president and I on some restructuring and some new visions about how to deal with early childhood. I think the proof is in the pudding as the plan advances,” Mariano told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear what plan of Gov. Charlie Baker’s the speaker might have been referring to, but Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy on March 9 presented a proposal to the Board of Early Education and Care for how to spend $110 million in federal stimulus funding from the December relief package.

The plan, which requires legislative authorization, proposes to distribute the funding through monthly operational grants to EEC-licensed providers to maintain current child care capacity during the economic recovery. The proposal represents a deviation from the traditional per-child funding model to account for the decline in enrollment as families have been slow to return children to full-time care and the cost of running programs has increased due to health and safety protocols.

The administration in March also launched a $30 million grant program to be split between center-based providers and family day care providers to pay for staff and maintenance of homes. “The ultimate problem is the wages of folks who work in the industry,” Mariano said. “They’re extremely low-paid positions and it’s a problem.” A spokeswoman for the speaker did not immediately respond Thursday afternoon to questions about what specifically the speaker was referring to when he talked about being briefed by the governor.


Original story here.