Advocates push to increase child care funding as parents go back to work

Posted at 5:21 PM, Jun 08, 2020

Child care facilities are facing an uphill battle as they reopen and try to serve their families.

"A lot of child care providers can't afford to go a few weeks or a few months without revenue, and they certainly can't afford to operate with fewer children and less revenue coming in," said Katie Hamm, vice president of early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress.

Hamm wants to see the government make investments into early childhood programs.

"Child care was in crisis before the pandemic. I think it was more of a quiet crisis, and now it's front and center for a lot of Americans," said Hamm.

Hamm says many programs were barely making ends meet before the pandemic and that half of Americans live in child care deserts, that is, neighborhoods where there are too few child care options for all the kids who need it.

Child care facilities are also looking at added expenses with new sanitation and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.

"The child care community has asked for an investment of $50 billion, to stabilize childcare, that is on par with what other industries have asked for," said Hamm.

Funding would go to states to allocate the money.

Throughout the pandemic, several organizations have stepped in to ease child care burdens, including COVID Child Care, a group founded by students at USC, Stanford, UCLA, and UCSD.

The group connects medical workers with free childcare from volunteers. So far, they have branches in San Diego, Coachella Valley, Orange County, Seattle, and Reno.

Stanford University student Ryan Cieslikowski founded the organization and says they are working to grow their volunteer base to help more essential medical workers.

"A lot of hospitals have furloughed up to 70 percent of their staff in some cases. It's really important that once these workers come back to work, and child care facilities are still often closed, and they're still not socially distanced, that they have an alternative," said Cieslikowski.

YMCA's around the country have also stepped up to help families, offering child care for essential workers. As more Ys begin to reopen, many of these services will be expanded to the general public.

Some are offering reduced rates or financial aid for those families who need it. Others have a fund underwriting the cost, and some are offering a reduced rate.

Moving forward, Hamm says the industry needs a long-term investment to not only help parents afford child care but ensure workers earn a livable wage.

"So, the next time the country is in crisis, the child care system can serve everyone well," said Hamm.