Advocates say US needs $50 billion for child care during pandemic

Posted at 3:56 PM, May 12, 2020

Groups of children playing together, screaming, knocking over toys, isn’t a sight many of us have seen in a few months. But some child care centers, like the YMCA, have been offering emergency child care to essential workers during the entire coronavirus crisis.

“Child care is essential,” said Chris Coker, who runs the YMCA of Northern Colorado.

Coker says the staff came to work before knowing where all of its funding was going to come from.

“So, the world got shut down on a Thursday, as I recall. Monday, we’re open for essential child care. The Y is, and it was a very rapid response where as some of the other providers it took them three weeks to figure it out,” recalled Coker.

While the YMCA's instincts have allowed essential workers like doctors, nurses, bus drivers, and grocery store employees to keep going to work, eventually that bill will come due, and it’s pretty expensive.

“It will cost at least $9.6 billion in new funding to sustain the sector for each month that the pandemic carries on,” said Stephanie Schmit, who works for the Center for Law and Social Policy.

According to its analysis, the country will need $50 billion for child care services to make it through the pandemic.

In the CARES Act, only $3.5 billion was allocated for child care relief. Schmit says that won’t last very long.

“To put the $3.5 billion into context, we estimate that $3.5 billion will only last about two weeks," she explained.

Money for child care from the government is sent out in block grants to the states, then distributed by each state to facilities, like the YMCA of Northern Colorado. It's used to lower their costs to parents.

“The funding would pass at the federal level, it would pass down to states, who would then pass the money on to providers. Providers would then pass on the cost savings to families,” said Schmit.

Additional money would help offset increased costs due to the pandemic, like increased safety measures, back funding for organizations that have stayed open for emergency child care, and relief for parents who have had to keeping paying organizations to hold their child’s spot in existing facilities.

“You name the care provider that works with kids, because of this, very much so, if you want them back, there’s going to have to be some federal relief given to these organizations,” said Coker.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith outlined how the $50 billion plan would work, and the hope is to get the plan attached to any additional coronavirus relief bill.

Sen. Warren said in a statement: “Without emergency relief funding, our child care system is in danger of collapsing. When the time comes, we will not be able to rebuild our economy if parents and caregivers can’t go back to work.”

The argument is for any meaningful reopening of the country, childcare will be essential.

“People lived, because there were the doctors, nurses, police, fire, energy, you know, boom, boom, boom, and they could do that, because we could take care of their kids,” said Coker.