Confronting shortages of essential child care caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing for the inclusion of the Child Care Is Essential Act in the next coronavirus relief package. During the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly half of all child care providers have had to shut their doors and the industry faces a potential loss of more than 4 million child care slots, which would leave millions of families without access to essential child care services when normal work and life schedules resume. The Child Care Is Essential Act would establish a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund to provide grants to stabilize child care providers who are open during the pandemic and would help child care providers that were forced to close to safely reopen.
“Our nation was facing a child care crisis even before the pandemic hit, with millions of working families struggling to afford high-quality and safe child care,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Now our nation’s child care providers, and parents who rely on them, are facing unprecedented instability and uncertainty. There’s no recovering from this recession if parents can’t get back to work, and the Child Care is Essential Act will support providers who have been caring for the children of essential workers during this crisis and will ensure that others can safely reopen their doors and help parents get back to work. Congress must pass it, both for our recovery and for our future.”
As businesses begin to reopen and working families need child care, child care providers across the country are struggling to operate with significantly reduced capacity and are facing increased operating costs with limited revenue. More than 355,000 people in the child care industry have lost their jobs, and many providers who closed will not be able to reopen their doors without assistance. While the CARES Act included $3.5 billion in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to provide childcare for frontline healthcare workers and other essential employees, recent estimates from the National Women’s Law Center show that it would take at least $9.6 billion per month to keep current child care providers in business. To address the child care crisis exacerbated by coronavirus, Gillibrand is calling on Congress to create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund, which would provide grant funding to child care providers to stabilize the child care sector and support providers as they safely reopen and operate.
The Child Care Stabilization Fund would provide grants to child care providers through the CCDBG. Grants would be available to licensed, regulated, or registered child care providers currently open or temporarily closed due to COVID-19. The funding would be determined by providers’ operating costs prior to the pandemic and would be adjusted to reflect the additional cost of providing care as a result of this crisis. Specifically, the Child Care Stabilization Fund would help child care providers and working families by:
- Covering child care providers’ operating expenses and heightened costs of providing care due to the pandemic;
- Ensuring that funding gets to providers quickly;
- Requiring that providers continue to pay their staff;
- Providing tuition and copayment relief for working families;
- Promoting health and safety through compliance with public health guidance;
- Prioritizing providers that serve underserved populations;
- Ensuring grants are awarded equitably across child care settings; and
- Conducting oversight through robust reporting requirements.
Senator Gillibrand cosponsored the legislation last month alongside U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Bob Casey (D-PA). Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03 introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
A one-page summary of the Child Care is Essential Act can be found here.