Funding for childcare centers crucial to national recovery, advocates say

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich.

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, along with other senators, called on Congressional leadership to allocate at least $50 billion in emergency funding to stabilize the childcare industry.

The National Women’s Law Center estimates that at least $9.6 billion is needed each month to preserve the nation’s childcare system during the pandemic. According to a letter, many childcare centers projected at the beginning of the health crisis that they could not remain operational if they had to close for more than two weeks. Many across the nation have been closed for longer than that, the letter states.  The letter said that keeping childcare functional is “critical for getting families back to work and school as we recover from this crisis.”

“The profound gaps in our childcare infrastructure already cost American families and the economy about $57 billion each year in lost earnings, productivity and revenue,” the letter states.

Nearly 500 organizations around the country signed the letter.

The federal $2 trillion CARES Act set aside $3.5 billion in emergency funding through childcare grants and some childcare centers could be eligible for loans through the federal Small Business Association, but childcare centers need more help, the letter reports. Both private childcare centers and those that receive existing subsidies are in trouble, according to the letter. Childcare centers that have remained open through the pandemic to provide support to the families of workers deemed essential during the public health emergency are facing “additional expenses and insufficient resources,” the letter says.

The state offered some incentives to childcare centers to remain open during the public health emergency last month to provide childcare for frontline workers during the pandemic. The state also offered to cover all medical costs associated with a diagnosis of COVID-19 for all childcare workers and their immediate families.

But some advocates, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), have said childcare workers should receive hazard pay during the pandemic.

During an online press conference Thursday, Heinrich talked in general about the economic crisis and how the nation can tackle some of the looming economic issues. Some of his ideas include putting young people to work through a national service and fixing the maintenance backlog in the nation’s national forests, parks and wildlife refuges.

“Now is not the time for business as usual in Washington,” he said.