WASHINGTON, DC – As more Americans return to the workplace and child care centers reopen with COVID-19 precautions and restrictions in place, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) says ensuring access to quality, safe, affordable child care must be a priority because it is a public health and economic imperative.

Reed is teaming up with U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in introducing the Child Care is Essential Act (S. 3874).  This legislation would help stabilize the child care crisis by adding a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund to the existing Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).  This initiative builds on Reed’s successful effort to secure $10 million for Rhode Island child care and preschool providers and programs in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law No. 116-136).  

The Child Care is Essential Act would provide grant funding to child care providers to safely reopen, operate, and pay their staff.  The legislation would also offer tuition and co-payment relief for families in need, as well as additional assistance to protect the health and safety of children and caregivers.

“People can’t go back to work if there’s no childcare.  It’s that simple.  Child care is essential to the health and well-being of our children, economy, and communities.  America won’t recover if we don’t get childcare right,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee who sent a letter to Senate leadership in April calling for a $50 billion investment to support the struggling child care sector in next coronavirus pandemic response package.  “The child care sector is struggling to operate at reduced capacity and with increased health and safety costs.  Child care workers are essential workers and need personal protective equipment and hazard pay.  Congress can play an important role in terms of both funding and leadership.  We must ensure child care centers can operate safely and with the data and guidance they need to make informed decisions.  In order to ensure local businesses can safely reopen and return to capacity, we must ensure child care centers can serve communities and that families can afford to send their kids to facilities that are safe, caring, and have protocols, staff, and supplies in place to prevent transmission of COVID-19.”

Rhode Island has nearly 700 licensed private child care providers.  Due to COVID-19, the state directed all child care centers in Rhode Island to close on March 16.  But earlier this month, Rhode Island entered phase two of the state’s reopening plan, with over 600 child care centers approved to reopen at reduced capacity and with safety restrictions. 

However, without additional federal support, it is an open question as to how many child care providers can afford to stay in business.  According to data from the Center for American Progress and the National Association for the Education of Young Children: “without public funding, the United States could lose 4.5 million—or nearly half (49 percent)—of the nation’s licensed child care slots as a result of the pandemic.”

As one of twenty U.S. Senators who negotiated the CARES Act, Reed helped include $3.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) in the law to assist child care providers and support child care for essential workers.  The bill also includes $750 million in nationwide grants for Head Start, including up to $500 million to support summer programing in certain areas.

Specifically, the Child Care Stabilization Fund would help child care providers and working families by:

  • Covering child care providers’ operating expenses and heightened costs of providing care due to the pandemic;
  • Ensuring that funding gets to providers quickly;
  • Requiring that providers continue to pay their staff;
  • Providing tuition and copayment relief for working families;
  • Promoting health and safety through compliance with public health guidance;
  • Prioritizing providers that serve underserved populations;
  • Ensuring grants are awarded equitably across child care settings; and
  • Conducting oversight through robust reporting requirements.

In addition to Murray and Reed, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators: Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV)., Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

The Child Care is Essential Act is endorsed by more than 80 national organizations, including: Child Care Aware of America, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), First Five Years Fund, American Academy of Pediatrics, Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus Campaign for Children, ZERO to Three, National Women’s Law Center, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Center for American Politics (CAP), National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Domestic Workers Alliance, Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), National Association for Family Child Care, National Military Family Association, National Organization for Women (NOW), National Partnership for Women & Families, YWCA USA.

Companion legislation (H.R.7027) in the U.S. House of Representatives is led by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee.