In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced this legislation to expand the availability of quality child care, which is both a basic precondition of allowing parents and caregivers to return to work and essential to children’s healthy development and academic success:
“The coronavirus pandemic has taken a devastating toll on our families and communities. We will recover together, but that recovery is only possible if we invest in affordable, quality child care. The early years of a child’s life are powerfully formative. We have an opportunity and a duty to ensure all our children are safe, healthy, and learning. Parents simply cannot return to work without these baseline necessities in place, which is why the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act would dramatically increase child care funding for the first time in more than a decade, provide new funding for infrastructure improvements, give families, providers, and employers tax relief, and recognize child care workers as the essential workers they are.”
The Early Care & Learning Council is among a number of child care and policy advocacy organizations that support this bill. Its Executive Director, Meredith Menzies Chimento, says:
“Child care [h]as been a critical support for working families before the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to play an even more vital role in serving essential workers. Yet, the child care industry as a whole is extremely under-resourced and has been struggling for years. The Child Care for Economic Recovery Act takes crucial steps to bolster the infrastructure of the system and alleviate the financial hardship experienced by families as they utilize child care. As our Child Care Resource and Referral network works with child care providers to this deliver this essential service, the public and private investments that will come through this act will make big strides towards ensuring the strength of the system and its ability to continue to care for and educate young children.”
Chris Herbst, an associate professor studying public policy at Arizona State and the author of a new paper on child care supply, warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could permanently alter parents’ child care preferences. For example, parents who prioritize safety may choose to keep children home or prioritize small programs with stringent COVID-19 prevention measures. If there’s a mismatch between the child care services that government supports and the child care services that parents prefer, Herbst warns, the government could “end up propping up the wrong set of businesses,” which would be inefficient.
Senate Republicans, who have urged restraint in future coronavirus relief spending, are demanding that any future COVID-19 relief legislation be narrowly targeted. Given this, it’s unclear whether they’ll support this legislation’s high level of investment.
This legislation has 30 Democratic House cosponsors. It also has the support of numerous policy and childcare advocacy organizations, including the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), Coalition on Human Needs, Early Care & Learning Council, and Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy.
Of Note: The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a national nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing policy solutions for low-income people, notes that the need for child care support is particularly acute in low-income minority communities. In a July 14, 2020, brief CLASP reported:
“Child care is least affordable for Black and Latinx families with low incomes. Asian American and Latinx children have particularly low levels of access to child care subsidies, the main support to help families pay for child care. Native American and Latinx communities are more likely to live in child care deserts—areas with particularly low capacity of licensed child care relative to the population of children— making access to care challenging… Black, Latinx, and Native children were already experiencing higher rates of poverty and economic insecurity prior to the pandemic… Because many child care programs also provide nutritious food to children, the shutdown of programs has likely contributed to an increase in hunger, especially among communities of color. Families across the board are also experiencing increased stress and conflict, with Black families reporting an increase in children’s behavior issues in recent weeks, while families overall report a decline.”
Furthermore, CLASP reported that child care providers have been hit hard by COVID-19. The organization predicts that, without federal support, many child care providers may not make it through the pandemic, hurting both families with children who need child care and child care workers in a double whammy for minority communities.
In a recent estimate, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) found that it would take at least $9.6 billion per month to keep current child care providers solvent. According to CAP, the need for assistance is especially acute among child care providers in communities of color; such businesses may struggle to access small-business loans, such as those through the PPP, due to systemic discrimination in banking practices, the wealth gap, and higher debt.
To date, Congress has given the child care sector $3.5 billion in pandemic funding in the CARES Act. The House has also passed $10 billion in the Moving Forward Act, which finances grants to improve child-care centers and help them fund construction, renovations, and improvements to address both longstanding issues and new challenges posed by COVID-19. An additional $7 billion in the HEROES Act (which hasn’t been considered in the Senate due to Republican opposition) is also pending. The White House has issued statements of administration policy opposing both the HEROES Act and Moving Forward Act.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / ChiccoDodiFC)