My wife and I stared blankly at one another last month when Governor Andy Beshear announced that child care providers would close in response to the Covid-10 pandemic. As parents of an infant and preschooler, we had to make quick shifts (like so many families) to handle what has become a daily routine of managing workloads, parenting, diapering, and teaching.
Added to that was a new worry. We love our child care center, the teachers and the staff. It is in the neighborhood in which I grew up. We desperately want it to reopen when this public health crisis wanes.
Over the last few weeks, I have talked numerous times with our child care center’s director about the challenges she faces and how the stimulus programs in the federal CARES Act may help. This includes $3.5 billion in Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding, $350 billion in forgivable small business loans in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and enhanced unemployment benefits ($600 additional per week).
Unfortunately, how all these supports interact is complicated. It is remains unclear what level of flexibility states have to use CCDBG funds to support all providers. Many concerns have been raised about the administration of the PPP program and whether funds are sufficient to support the demand. Moreover, the enhanced unemployment benefits of $600/week is equivalent to $15/hour – much more than the median wage for a child care professional of $10.72/hour.
The Covid-19 crisis is impacting our system of child care that was already fragile and suffered from inadequate public support. The number of regulated providers in Kentucky dropped from 4,400 in 2013 to 2,400 in 2019. Moreover, as we noted in our 2017 Cost of Quality report, support for child care is insufficient to provide quality, full-day care to enough working families. This is why we had asked Kentucky legislators to increase support for child care over the next six years by $250 million as part of our Big Bold Ask for education. The crisis now facing state budgets will make that level of investment all but impossible in the near term.
For all of the above reasons, Congress must act to provide significant additional, direct investment to child care to support essential workers and first responders during the crisis, as well as protect the child care workforce and child care business by supporting them specifically during the crisis. This will help ensure that a robust child care system is sustainable coming out of our national emergency.
National child care partners and advocates are calling for Congress to provide $50 billion in assistance to child care as part of the federal stimulus efforts. The support must be robust and flexible allowing states to support things such as: operating costs during mandated closures, support for copays and tuition based on enrollment, training and professional development, facility maintenance and cleaning, and what will be significant costs related to re-opening and re-hiring as restrictions on operating are phased out.
We endorse this ask of our federal policy makers and ask that you do as well. Click here to contact Kentucky’s congressional delegation and voice your support for significant additional assistance for child care.
The Covid-19 crisis is no doubt awful. But it stands to reveal our humanity – in part expressed in the policies and investments we will choose to make. Supporting child care in the way young children and families deserve is a powerful way to create the world we want to live in coming out on the other side.