Senator Elizabeth Warren and 30 of her Senate colleagues are calling for the next coronavirus rescue bill to include a $50 billion bailout for struggling child care operations whose services are seen as key to restarting the economy as the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
In a letter Wednesday, the lawmakers called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to create a relief fund specifically for child care providers, many of which have been closed for weeks because of the outbreak with no reopening date in sight.
Warren warned that Massachusetts was in danger of losing 34 percent of its child care capacity, citing an analysis from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. The analysis painted a dire picture of the state of the child care industry nationwide, with US capacity overall shrinking by 50 percent if struggling providers do not receive support. Without options for taking care of their children, parents could face the prospect of being unable to return to their jobs once businesses reopen.
“We have only two options as a country: we can either do what is needed to stabilize the child care system, or we can watch child care providers collapse, one by one in our communities, leaving children, families, and childcare workers with no system to return to and hamstringing our economic recovery,” the senators wrote in the letter. It was organized by Warren and Minnesota’s Tina Smith, and signed by 28 of their fellow Senate Democrats as well as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered child care centers to remain closed at least through the end of the school year. That’s longer than the closures of many other non-essential businesses, which are ordered shuttered until at least May 18. A limited number of emergency child care providers have been allowed to stay open for children of essential workers.
The $2 trillion rescue legislation enacted last month included $3.5 billion to fund child care for frontline workers. But Warren and her colleagues said more needs to be done to help the industry as a whole. The proposed $50 billion fund would “stabilize” the industry while providing free care to front line workers fighting the pandemic, as well as paid leave and hazard pay for child care workers, the senators wrote. The fund would also look beyond the pandemic, boosting pay for child care providers in the long term.
The letter comes as negotiations over a new coronavirus relief package are playing out in the media. The bipartisan National Governors Association has called on Congress to prioritize state and local budgets in the next bill, drawing a rebuke from McConnell, who suggested states should instead be allowed to file for bankruptcy.