Sens. Patty Murray and Bernie Sanders on Wednesday led a group of lawmakers in introducing legislation that would avert a fast-approaching disaster by approving $16 billion in emergency childcare funding each year for the next half-decade.

The bill comes just 17 days before billions of dollars of childcare funding that was approved to keep the crucial industry afloat during the coronavirus pandemic is set to expire, potentially forcing tens of thousands of childcare programs across the country to shut down.

A recent report by The Century Foundation (TCF) estimated that more than 3 million kids could lose their childcare slots if the funding expires, impacting families, childcare workers, businesses, and the overall U.S. economy.

TCF calculated that states could lose nearly $11 billion in economic activity per year and parents across the U.S. could face $9 billion in lost earnings annually.

"Ask any parent, any provider, or any business in just about any part of this country and they will tell you, 'We have a childcare crisis in America,'" Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said during a press conference introducing the Child Care Stabilization Act on Wednesday. "And that crisis could soon go from bad to worse as essential relief for the sector expires at the end of this month."

"We are here today to sound the alarm and put forward a commonsense solution," Murray added, "before childcare providers might have to close their doors, before kids lose their childcare slots, and before parents could face higher costs—or simply be forced to leave their jobs to take care of their kids."

Childcare advocates, progressive lawmakers, and states have been vocally warning about the looming childcare catastrophe for months, but the divided U.S. Congress has yet to act to shore up the struggling sector—and it's unclear whether the new legislation will be able to muster enough Republican support to pass by September 30.

Republicans unanimously opposed the American Rescue Plan, a Covid-19 relief measure that established childcare stabilization funding that kept more than 200,000 childcare providers in business and preserved childcare slots for around 10 million kids across the country.

"We are all here to make certain that our Republican colleagues step up to the plate and that we address this terrible crisis," Sanders, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said during Wednesday's press conference.

"If we can afford to spend over $1 trillion on tax breaks for the top 1% and large corporations making record-breaking profits," the Vermont senator said in a statement, "we can afford to provide working class families with the childcare they desperately need."

Despite the devastating impacts the coming funding lapse could have on the childcare sector, President Joe Biden did not include any childcare money in his recent supplemental funding request, which did contain a call for disaster relief and additional aid for Ukraine.

Politicoreported late last month that "White House aides are largely resigned to watching the industry's financial aid dissolve without a new stopgap in place to cushion the blow."

Such an outcome would be unacceptable, childcare advocates said Wednesday.

"Now is not the time to play politics with our children's futures," Josephine Kalipeni, executive director of Family Values @ Work, said in a statement. "We are at a pivotal moment in this nation's history. Will Congress make permanent investments in childcare to show working families they value them and their contributions? Or will they refuse to act, displaying a cowardice that will cost children, their families, and the economy?"

If passed, the Childcare Stabilization Act would provide $16 billion in mandatory funding to the childcare sector each year for the next five years. The bill was introduced with 35 original co-sponsors in the Senate and 78 in the House, where the legislation is led by House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

No Republican has backed the measure.

"Here is the plain truth: we need our Republican colleagues to join us in this effort too," Murray said Wednesday. "I will talk to anyone and everyone in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, about this bill, and I will keep fighting to make any progress we can."

"You can bet I have no plans of letting up," Murray added. "And I know the people behind me, and so many others, are not going to either."


Original story HERE