Congress Must Take Action: $16 Billion Needed to Avoid Childcare Cliff
Sept. 22, 2023
As many as 220,000 childcare providers and many millions of children could be out of luck at the end of September. Congress has not authorized continued funding of an emergency pandemic-era program that assured adequate support for the childcare/early learning sector. $16 billion is needed now to stave off the closure of 70,000 programs and the loss of 3.2 million childcare slots. Not only is $16 billion needed in the short term, but a longer-term solution is required to provide stability to a sector of the economy that is woefully under-resourced and dependent on a vulnerable, poorly compensated workforce—94 percent of whom are women. Short-term funding is essential, but a longer-term fix will address many of the persistent problems of unaffordability, a lack of access in childcare deserts, and the difficulty of retaining trained staff. WE NEED ACTION NOW!
Why It Matters:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 American Rescue Plan allocated $39 billion in relief funding to stabilize the childcare sector. Those funds proved critically important as businesses closed down and people lost jobs. Assured funding for childcare programs was essential for many women who needed to work to support their families. That source of funding ends on September 30. Additional funds have not been appropriated and many childcare/early learning programs stand at the brink of having to close down.
As we have talked about before: over half of people in the U.S. live in a childcare desert where there is no licensed childcare provider or where there are more than three children for every one childcare slot. Many families are on waitlists for months and even years. Then the costs of care for a child in a licensed childcare/early learning center is about $11,000 annually, according to Child Care Aware of America. The childcare industry lost 370,000 workers in 2020, but as centers re-opened, there is still a deficit of 40,500 workers.
There are nearly 30 million children aged 0 through 5 years in this country. The United States must come to grips with the impact an under-resourced childcare/early learning industry has on the economy and on family economics. Other developed nations help underwrite affordable, widely available high-quality childcare programs – surely, the U.S. can do it, too.
What To Do:
Our friends in Congress have put forward an important bill, the Childcare Stabilization Act – we need to work to get it passed ASAP!
The Childcare Stabilization Act would prevent a potential crisis when funding expires at the end of the month by providing $16 billion in mandatory funding each year for the next five years to continue the successful childcare grant program. This investment would ensure that childcare providers continue to receive a reliable source of funding to help them deliver high-quality and affordable childcare for working families across the country.
Senate sponsor is Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (Sen. Murray is also a former preschool teacher at a community college), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. They are joined by 36 senators and 104 colleagues in the House. The House companion measure is sponsored by House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA), with Rep. Rosa DeLauro(D-CT ), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA.), and Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (D-NY)
What Can I do?
Send a message NOW to both of your Senate and House members to support the Childcare Stabilization Act (S. 2777 and H.R. 5433). You can reach their offices by dialing the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. You can find your senators’ contact information at U.S. Senate: Senators and House member’s at Representatives | house.gov You can also send messages through their websites.
What do I say?
- Critical funding for childcare and early learning programs will expire at the end of September unless Congress acts. Please add your name as a supporter of the Childcare Stabilization Act, sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray and Bernie Sanders. This bill is urgently needed to prevent the loss of 70,000 childcare programs affecting 3.2 million childcare slots as funds end on Sept. 30.
- The Childcare Act Stabilization Act will assure that important investments over five years will mean that millions of children and their parents have access to high-quality programs and that childcare workers are paid decent wages.
- As we have seen during the pandemic, the shortage of affordable childcare and early learning programs forces parents – usually mothers — to drop out of the paid workforce. Clearly, the lack of affordable and accessible programs significantly hinders the productivity of the economy. To reduce poverty, maximize participation in the workforce, mitigate gender inequality, and foster the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic, this nation needs to strengthen its childcare infrastructure. The Childcare Stabilization Act will go a long way in addressing these problems.
Even if your members are co-sponsors, it is important to let them know you want to see this bill passed ASAP!
Thanks for all that you do for NOW.