WASHINGTON, July 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The Future Forum Caucus, in conjunction with the Early Care & Education Consortium (ECEC), hosted a roundtable discussion on "Child Care in the Era of COVID-19." Led by Future Forum Chair Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), participants discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child care, assistance provided through previously passed coronavirus relief packages, and the urgent need for a robust child care stabilization fund. Participants also discussed three key child care proposals under consideration for inclusion in the next relief package—the Child Care Is Essential Act, the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act, and the Back to Work Child Care Grants Act.
Later this month, the House is expected to vote on H.R. 7027, the Child Care Is Essential Act and H.R. 7327, the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act—a major step towards ensuring the inclusion of robust relief for the child care industry in any future COVID-19 relief legislation.
Roundtable panelists included:
- Jo Kirchner, CEO, Primrose Schools, and Board Co-Chair, Early Care & Education Consortium
- Tom Wyatt, CEO, KinderCare Education, and member, Early Care & Education Consortium
- Cheryl Oldham, Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
- Sarah Rittling, Executive Director, First Five Years Fund
- Mark Shriver, President, Save the Children Action Network, and Senior Vice President of U.S. Programs & Advocacy, Save the Children
Future Forum participants included Reps. Stephanie Murphy (FL-7), Sharice Davids (KS-3), Andy Kim (NJ-3), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Abigail Spanberger (VA-7), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Derek Kilmer (WA-6). Rep. Kilmer is also Chair of the New Democrat Coalition.
Child care remains the backbone of our nation's economy, serving over 11 million families across a broad socioeconomic spectrum. Yet due to this national emergency, the industry is on the brink of collapse. Without assistance, it is estimated that 50% of the country's child care centers will close permanently, leading to a loss of 4.5 million child care slots and further exacerbating the existing child care crisis.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for American families who depend on quality and affordable child care in order to work," said Rep. Murphy. "As parents prepare to rejoin the workforce in the coming months, child care options must remain accessible to every family in need. As Future Forum members who are strong advocates for the millennial workforce, we were glad to hear from ECEC and other early education experts on the need for legislation that will help child care providers keep their doors open and provide much-needed assistance to working parents."
The child care industry operates on razor thin margins, and the pandemic led to temporary closures of over of 50% of child care centers. Of programs that remained open, 85% reported they were operating at less than 50% of their enrollment capacity and 65% of those were operating at less than 25% of capacity. Many programs also had to furlough teachers, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that a third of child care workers, more than 300,000 individuals, lost their jobs in March. Even in states that are reopening, enrollment numbers remain anywhere from 25%-40% lower than pre-pandemic levels. As revenues decline, child care providers face higher operational costs due to enhanced cleaning procedures, health and safety requirements, changes to curriculum, and various other COVID-19 related expenses. As a result, there is a real and urgent need to provide transitional assistance to support a supply of child care to meet the needs of America's workforce.
Even before the pandemic hit, 51% of Americans lived in neighborhoods classified as child care deserts. In places where child care was available, the annual cost of infant care was more than college tuition in 30 states, putting safe, high-quality, licensed care out of reach for millions of working families. If Congress does not provide financial assistance for child care providers, a majority of American families will no longer have access to safe, affordable care, hindering their ability to return to work. Thirteen percent of U.S. parents had to quit a job or reduce their working hours due to a lack of child care, according to a survey of 2,557 working parents conducted by Northeastern University from May 10 to June 22. The survey found parents were losing an average of eight hours of work a week—the equivalent of a full day—because they had to address their kids' needs.
According to a 2019 ReadyNation study, the child care crisis had an annual economic cost of $57 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue, even before factoring in the substantial COVID-19-related impacts. Further demonstrating the industry's impact on American businesses, in 2016, over one million part-time workers cited child care problems as the reason for not working more hours.
Child care access is also strongly associated with maternal labor force participation, and facility closures will likely lead to more costly career sacrifices for women. Most families rely on the income that mothers earn, with 64% of all mothers serving as the primary or co-breadwinner. Research shows that in child-care deserts there is a 12% drop in mothers' labor force participation. Furthermore, child care programs, frequently women-owned small businesses, are staffed by a racially diverse workforce that is 93% female. If child care centers close, these workers will be without employment.
As the nation continues to fight the pandemic, high-quality licensed child care providers are in the best position to implement health and safety protocols to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 in child care centers. If these child care centers close, parents will be left with low-quality and potentially unlicensed and unregulated alternatives. This is detrimental to the health and safety of children.
ABOUT THE EARLY CARE & EDUCATION CONSORTIUM
The Early Care & Education Consortium (ECEC) is a non-profit alliance of the leading multi-state/multi-site child care providers, key state child care associations, and premier educational service providers, representing over 6,500 programs in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and select international locations. Our members serve as the unified collective voice for providers of high-quality programs and services that support families and children from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. We are advocates for strong federal and state policies that bring quality to scale. Learn more at https://www.ececonsortium.org/.
ABOUT FUTURE FORUM
Future Forum is a generational caucus comprised of 50 young Members of Congress who focus on issues important to millennial and Gen Z Americans such as access to child care, health care affordability, and student loan debt. Learn more at https://futureforumpac.com/.
SOURCE Early Care & Education Consortium (ECEC)