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Congressional Leaders Unveil Year-End COVID-19 Relief Package with $10 Billion for Child Care

News December 20, 2020

WASHINGTON – Moments ago, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate released the final details of an end-of-year pandemic relief package, which includes $10 billion in funding to stabilize the child care industry. The measure also includes $250 million for the Head Start program. In response, First Five Years Fund (FFYF) Executive Director Sarah Rittling released the following statement: 

“Child care providers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 economic crisis. It is heartbreaking to think about the countless thousands of providers for whom the financial challenges have been too great to bear, forcing them to make the devastating decision to close their doors.  

“The child care industry is an essential pillar of the American economy, and we are grateful for the dedicated efforts of those on Capitol Hill – Democrats and Republicans – who worked hard to ensure child care was included in every relief package proposed throughout the pandemic. The $10 billion in dedicated relief to the child care industry during a time of such great challenge for the country is symbolic of the recognition by Congress of the critical role care plays in our everyday lives. But the work isn’t over. The new Congress and incoming Biden administration have an opportunity to pick up where this down payment leaves off to ensure providers have the resources to prevent them from shuttering their doors permanently through what is sure to be a tumultuous and unpredictable few months, as well as to address the nation’s child care challenges by fortifying an early learning and care system that works for all families. This pandemic has revealed for the American people that an abundance of quality, affordable, child care is critical to both our economic recovery from the pandemic, our long-term financial success, and social welfare.”

Shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, FFYF assembled a coalition of the country’s leading child care, business, and child advocacy organizations to launch Child Care Relief—a campaign to ensure federal lawmakers prioritize and address the needs of child care providers and families in COVID-19 economic relief efforts – and beyond. 

There has been universal agreement among lawmakers and voters alike that child care providers need relief, with emergency funding for child care included in every economic recovery proposal out of the House, Senate, and White House since Congress passed the CARES Act in March. Since then, lawmakers have failed to reach a deal on subsequent relief efforts until today. According to a national poll conducted in July, more than 8 in 10 voters favor a federal child care stabilization fund in the COVID-19 recovery package, with overwhelming support across partisan lines, generations, and genders. 

COVID-19 has created an acute child care crisis for American families, providers, and businesses, but the pandemic is not fully to blame. In recent decades, the exponential increase in demand for quality child care has far outpaced the growth in supply, creating a significant financial burden for families who rely on care out of economic necessity. At the same time, child care is an expensive, specialized service to deliver, and providers must strike a hard balance of earning a profit while keeping care affordable for the families they serve. The average cost of center-based child care in America is close to $10,000 per year – more than in-state college tuition in a majority of states. This pandemic has only exacerbated the realities of a child care system that was struggling financially.

Without question, however, the pandemic has pushed the child care industry to the brink of collapse, creating a dire situation for child care providers, working families, and our overall economic recovery:

  • Child care providers are facing a 47 percent increase in operating costs due to the pandemic while enrollment is down an average of 67 percent compared to pre-COVID levels.
  • 70 percent of parents report that their child care programs are closed or are operating at reduced capacity, and 44 percent of parents found that the lack of child care resources was a barrier to remote or in-person work.
  • About one in five working-age adults said the reason they can’t work is the disruption to their child care arrangements created by the pandemic. Among those not working, women ages 25 to 44 are almost three times as likely as men not to be working due to child care demands.
  • 76 percent of mothers with children under age 10 say child care has been among their top three challenges during the pandemic.

FFYF is committed to working with the Biden administration, bipartisan leaders in Congress, and diverse stakeholders across the country to find solutions to the challenges facing our child care providers and working families and ensure young children have access to high-quality, affordable early learning and care opportunities.

The First Five Years Fund is the leading bipartisan federal advocacy organization working to ensure all children from birth through age five have equal access to affordable, comprehensive, high-quality care and education to support their healthy development and help them achieve their full potential in school and life. FFYF seeks to expand federal support for all early learning and care opportunities that are high-quality and focused first on serving those children most-at-risk.


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