Earlier this month we dropped off the “child care cliff.” That means the end of pandemic-era funding for an industry that is in crisis mode already. As a parent with two young children, and with plans on returning to the workforce in the next few months, I’m petrified about the rising cost of daycare.
It’s really worrisome that even in a two-parent household, the cost of daycare can be detrimental to our finances. As a woman, I also feel that many of us have been forced to leave the workforce – especially when the pandemic occurred – because the reality is that the high cost of child care is not something many families like mine can really afford. So the alternative is one parent having to leave the workforce to become a primary caretaker, meaning families like mine also must live on a tight budget to make ends meet.
Back in 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act. The federal emergency relief package funded so many programs our families needed and still need, including aiding childcare programs with their program and operational costs, benefits, and wages. The only reason many child care centers survived was because of the $24 billion in stabilization funding they received during the pandemic recovery.
Barring some last-minute action by Congress – which didn’t happen – the funding allotted by the American Rescue Plan was slated to end on September 30. This means a significant number of childcare centers nationwide may have no way to stay open. To put this grim reality in numbers, according to the Century Foundation an estimation of 70,000 childcare centers are being forced to shut down their programs – leaving up to 3.2 million children without child care.
As a mother, this is the last thing I wanted to hear. My husband and I had planned that I would return to the workforce, but this situation makes me feel like we are not in control of my family’s life. This child care cliff is frightening for me and I’m sure millions of other working American parents with young children are feeling the same way.
I briefly thought there might be a glimmer of hope. Democrats such as Murray, Sanders, Clark and colleagues introduced the Child Care Stabilization Act, which would have helped to extend the much-needed child care funding by providing $16 billion in funding every year for the next five years. This solution would have helped address the child care crisis America is facing right now.
But instead of focusing on solutions, Congress had to deal with the extremist GOP trying to force us into a government shutdown and cut even more programs our families need.
Now that we’ve already gone over the cliff, Congressional leaders need to urgently take action and pass legislation that fills this gap and fully funds our childcare system, to prevent working families and the child care providers that support them from facing dire straits.