Cristina Guajardo of Austin, TX was recently let go from her job at a company that runs study abroad programs and isn’t able to start a new one until her 2-year-old’s subsidized day care is able to reopen. “I’ve heard of a few jobs that have come up that would pay really well,” she says. “But there’s no way I can.” As bills continue to pile up, Cristina has been forced into the impossible decision between caring for her child and searching for and beginning a much needed job – and she’s not alone. Without safe, affordable child care, many parents are unable to look for, let alone start a new job or to return to an existing one once businesses begin to reopen.
Since COVID-19 hit and forced virtually the entire country into lockdown to maintain our health and safety, the impact on the child care system has been significant, and to date, largely left out of Congressional efforts to provide relief. After three months with closed doors, it’s unclear how many child care providers will actually even be able to re-open when the time comes. One in three child care jobs – 330,000 in total – were lost in April alone. Many early educators who have been laid off will be unable or unwilling to return to the industry where they were already largely underpaid and many child care centers won’t be able to weather the partial or complete losses of revenue during the pandemic. Without adequate federal funding, nearly 4.5 million child care slots in an already overstressed system are at risk of disappearing permanently.
The HEROES Act, which the House passed on May 15, included an additional $7 billion in funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to provide some immediate relief to child care providers and families but this is far from adequate and doesn’t come close to the $50 billion that is needed to prevent it from collapse. A recent analysis found that the child care system needs at least $9.6 billion each month in public funding during the pandemic to avoid economic destabilization and permanent closures of child care providers.
Last week, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Child Care is Essential Act to ensure adequate funding to stabilize the child care sector and prevent permanent closures. The bill includes $50 billion in funding for stabilization grants through the Child Care and Development Block Grant which child care providers can use to cover personnel costs, sanitization and personal protective equipment, mental health supports for children and employees, modifications of services, and other necessities to maintain or resume operation.
CDF will continue to join the call for immediate relief to ensure child care settings and families can weather this crisis – and we are proud to endorse the Child Care is Essential Act which will help get us there. Without this funding, parents like Cristina will not have the care they need to go back to work, employers will be unable to restart without workers, and our economic recovery will be jeopardized. The child care system needs to be funded like the necessity it is for families, businesses, and our economy.