Amid increasing concerns that many child-care centers will be unable to reopen after the prolonged coronavirus closure, US Representative Katherine Clark and other members of Congress are seeking a massive investment of $100 billion in the industry.
Half the funds would be directed to stabilize child-care centers in a bailout, while the other half would shore up the industry and its employees with grants for improving infrastructure, wages, and tax credits to offset parents’ steep costs.
“It is undeniably a very large number. But it is also a necessary reflection of how child care, for too long, has gone unrecognized as being the foundation of our economy,” Clark said in an interview.
“This is not an accessory. This is not a nicety,” Clark added. “This is necessary.”
Massachusetts child-care centers have been closed for six weeks due to concerns about exposure to the coronavirus. And even as Governor Charlie Baker takes steps toward reopening other businesses mid-May, he has called for the centers to remain closed through the end of June. (About 2,500 children of essential workers are getting care through state-approved and state-funded emergency child-care programs.)
Nationally, caring for the children of essential workers amid the pandemic, and supporting child-care providers to keep their businesses afloat would cost at least $9.6 billion a month, Clark noted in a letter to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and minority leader Kevin McCarthy that drew the support of 84 other members of Congress.
A survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children found that only 11 percent of the country’s child-care providers would be able to survive without government support.
“If we fail to provide this $50 billion in short-term stabilization funding, we are at high risk of returning from this crisis only to find that families do not have the child care they need to go back to work,” Clark said in her letter.
But the crisis has revealed both how essential — and how fragile — the child-care industry is.
"For a robust economic recovery we cannot just maintain the status quo, where providers operate on the thinnest of margins and families struggle to find and afford quality care,” Clark and her colleagues wrote.
As a result, they’re requesting $50 billion in long-term investment, including funds for the renovation and new construction of facilities, increased wages and student loan repayment for teachers, and tax credits for families.
Last week, US Senator Elizabeth Warren and 30 colleagues in the Senate also sought $50 billion in coronavirus relief for child care.
Clark had previously sought an infusion of $21 billion in the industry, but the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) included just $3.5 billion.
“Families and child-care providers will be coming out of this pandemic in precarious financial situations,” Clark said. “If they are not able to access affordable child care, which was a huge burden for families going into this pandemic, we’re not going to have the recovery we all want.”