Losses Mount as Child Care Workers Look for Help
WASHINGTON — Speaking to a congressional panel on Friday, child care experts talked about how children and their caretakers were thrown into sometimes chaotic lifestyles and schedules by the coronavirus pandemic and the recession it caused.
A House Appropriations subcommittee on human services listened as the experts urged government assistance that would free parents to return to jobs, thereby helping families and the economy recover.
“Child care is the work that makes all other work possible,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who chairs the subcommittee on labor, health and human services and education. “The economy is not going to recover until childcare is back.”
She said 32% of employers have seen employees leave their jobs during the pandemic, often because they needed to care for their children.
Many child care centers closed to avoid the risk of infection, leaving parents few options but to take care of their children at home. Other parents suffered layoffs that left them unable to pay for childcare.
President Joe Biden recently described what he called the “acute, immediate child care crisis in America” as a result of the pandemic and quarantines. He is asking Congress to approve his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that would include a $25 billion emergency stabilization fund for child care providers.
Plans for more government assistance won support from congressional witnesses like Georgia Goldburn, director of the Hope Child Development Center in New Haven, Conn.
Non-profit organizations like hers are not seeking more net income, merely an opportunity to continue their services, she said.
“COVID has basically just pushed them beyond the brink,” she said.
Despite being non-profit organizations, “It is still a business and we continue to need money to operate a business,” she said.
Her center is caring for just over half the children it needs to continue operating as the economy and employment rates dipped during the pandemic, she said.
The pleas of the child care workers won broad support among lawmakers.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said, “The economic shock our economy experienced this last spring was unprecedented. The child care industry was hit particularly hard.”
One of the few who expressed reservations about a large influx of government money to prop up the industry was Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.
She agreed that professional child care was important but said it should not play such a big role in children’s lives that it displaces parental discretion.
“I want to be careful that we maintain choice in this,” she said.
Using her own children as an example, she said, “I want to be their main source of learning.”
Other witnesses described the extent of the child care industry’s recent problems.
Melissa Boteach, vice president of early learning for the National Women’s Law Center, said that in the past year 2.3 million women lost their jobs compared with 1.8 million men.
The job losses left many of the women unable to afford child care and deepened the poverty of some families, she said.
“When we don’t act, we are costing our economy $57 billion a year,” Boteach said.