Bipartisanship is increasingly rare these days, but even before the pandemic, child care was an issue that could reliably, occasionally, bring legislators together. According to First Five Years Fund, Republicans and Democrats alike introduced nearly 150 early learning bills in 2019. Here are three examples, now largely forgotten in the chaos of COVID-19.
- Iowa’s Joni Ernst (a Republican) and Nevada’s Jacky Rosen (a Democrat) co-sponsored the Small Business Child Care Investment Act, which would make many nonprofit child care providers eligible for all Small Business Administration capital access programs.
- Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) co-sponsored the Child Care Protection Improvement Act, intended to assist states in the process of implementing background check requirements for child care workers.
- David Trone (D-MD) and Denver Riggleman (R-VA) co-led a group of legislators calling for greater Head Start funding in a letter requesting support that would “keep pace with the rising costs of strengthening communities.”
👉 Read more: Democrats and Republicans Agree: Quality Child Care Must Be a Priority
Tragically, the bipartisan spirit that briefly took hold of Washington in late March—with the passage of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act—largely bypassed child care. CARES included $3.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program and $750 million for Head Start programs to respond to the needs of children and families, but experts were virtually unanimous in their insistence that this was a woefully inadequate response. The pandemic continues to short-circuit child care businesses in every state, making it nearly impossible for them to pay rent and make payroll. The consequences remain dire for every kind of workforce.
👉 Bipartisan Policy Center: State by State Use of CARES Act Supplemental CCDBG Funds
Enter Child Care Relief, a broad coalition dedicated to “securing critical relief from Congress for the industry that keeps America working.” The idea for a campaign was conceived of by First Five Years Fund, working closely with the Center for American Progress and the Bipartisan Policy Center, and the alliance comprises 20 organizations with a diversity of viewpoints and representing a range of stakeholders.
Across the country, parents are struggling to balance work and #childcare. We need immediate financial relief to help our children, our parents, and our economy: pic.twitter.com/Wrt2DaWYYE
— ChildCareRelief (@ChildCareRelief) August 28, 2020
“We anticipated the severe impact this pandemic would have on child care and we sprang into action,” says Charles Joughin, communications director of First Five Years Fund.
👉 Discover child care stories from across the country—and tell yours to Child Care Relief.
Bipartisanship is the name of the game. “Support on both sides of the aisle has grown exponentially,” Joughin says. “Legislators are sticking their necks out on this issue, because they understand the impact on kids and families, but for the workforce, too.”
Whether it’s worries about deficit spending or the presidential election heating up, relief for this vital industry has failed to materialize.
- The $3 trillion HEROES Act, which included $7 billion for child care (far short of the estimated $50 billion needed, according to coalition partner Child Care Aware), gained momentum in May before stalling.
- The fate of the HEALS Act, which according to coalition member ZERO TO THREE, “omits–or does not adequately address–key provisions needed to support families with young children,” remains uncertain.
The landscape changes daily, and Joughin isn’t making any predictions, but he notes that many Republicans are committed to prioritizing child care, and regards $15 billion as the floor for negotiations around child care funding in the next relief package.
Joughin notes that, with every other industry simultaneously fighting for the same pot of Congressional funding, advocates need to continue pushing their case throughout the fall. “Our role is to maximize reach so that we can stay competitive with other industries that have a much larger influence on Capitol Hill,” he says. “Speed is of the essence.” Expect poll numbers in support of child care to come out in time for the presidential debates.
“We’re here to leverage the collective voices, knowledge and reach of our partners,” Joughin summarizes. “Our work has been exhausting, but also energizing.”
Bank Street College of Education; @bankstreetedu
Bipartisan Policy Center; @BPC_Bipartisan
Center for American Progress; @amprog
Committee for Economic Development; @CEDupdate
The Center for Law and Social Policy; @CLASP_DC
Child Care Aware of America; @ChildCareAware
Council for a Strong America; @strongnationUSA
Early Care & Education Consortium; @ECEConsortium
First Five Years Fund; @firstfiveyears
First Focus on Children; @First_Focus
Home Grown Child Care; @HomeGrownOrg
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC); @NAEYC
National Head Start Association; @NatlHeadStart
The Ounce of Prevention Fund; @theOunce
Save the Children Action Network; @SCActionNetwork
ZERO TO THREE; @ZEROTOTHREE
Article: Let’s Talk About the Encouraging COVID Experiences of U.S. Child Care Programs
Article: Child Care Workforce: Three Women Reflect
Article: The Aunt Bees of America
3-Part Series: Steps to Sustainability
Video: Why Businesses Should Invest in Early Learning
Video: The Economic Benefits of Early Learning
Early Learning Nation columnist Mark Swartz writes for and about nonprofit organizations. Author of the children's books Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, Lost Flamingo, Magpie Bridge and The Giant of the Flood as well as a few novels, he lives in Takoma Park, MD, with his wife and two children.