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July 29, 2020

Dear Members of our Congressional Delegation:

Thank you for your efforts to support the needs of the Commonwealth’s residents as we continue to confront the myriad challenges caused by the pandemic.

We write today in appreciation of your demonstrated commitment to early education and care and to request that you each do everything within your power to ensure that the final relief bill currently being debated in Congress includes $50 billion in specific, dedicated funding necessary to stabilize our vital field.

The momentum behind the child care sector—both around the country and within the halls of the Capitol—has been gaining for weeks. Finally, the people and their representatives are realizing what we have all known for years: the child care sector is the backbone of our economy, providing education and care for our children while also facilitating parent reentry into the workforce.

Operating on razor-thin margins even before the pandemic, center-based, family child care, and afterschool providers in the Commonwealth are now facing even greater and longer-lasting challenges. The sector is being decimated by pandemic-required reduced capacity and increased cleaning and PPE costs. Cutbacks in services to families and widespread layoffs of staff are also adversely impacting our economic recovery. Worse yet, the damage to the workforce has a disparate impact on women and especially women of color who overwhelmingly serve in this critical, but underappreciated and underpaid role.

Many Massachusetts providers have already shuttered their doors, while the rest are cutting into whatever limited reserves they may have had and are headed for the same outcome. In a new report issued by NAEYC this month, average enrollment is down by 67% across the country and without an infusion of funding, 50% of all programs will be closed by December and only 18% will make it through a year. (more…)

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“In a vote Wednesday night, the House passed the Child Care Is Essential Act on a bipartisan basis, 249-163. The legislation creates a $50 billion fund to provide grants to help pay for personnel, sanitation, training and other costs associated with reopening and running a child-care facility amid the pandemic.”

“The House also passed on a bipartisan basis the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act, which is designed to provide funding to help child-care providers reopen and improve the safety of care facilities going forward.”

“ ‘We cannot assume that business can go on as usual if we don’t meet the needs of working parents,’ Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) said during a press conference Wednesday. When reporters started to ask questions pertaining to other news items, Sanchez interrupted to ask that they stick to the topic of child care. ‘I get so tired of everyone wanting to talk about deals and red lining and not talk about what’s relevant to the majority of families in this country,’ she said.”

 

“House passes set of bills that give child care industry a more than $60 billion bailout,” by Megan Leonhardt, CNBC.com, July 29, 2020

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Photo: Andre Melcher from Pexels

 

The title of an article from the Center for American Progress says it all: “The Coronavirus Will Make Child Care Deserts Worse and Exacerbate Inequality.”

“As COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders to protect public health continue, a quiet crisis is unfolding in child care programs across the country,” the article says. “At the outset of the pandemic, nearly two-thirds of child care providers said they could not survive a closure that extended longer than one month. The Center for American Progress estimates that the country could lose half of its licensed child care capacity without government intervention.”

The center has a tool that shows where child care deserts were before COVID-19 — including like western Massachusetts — where more closures would make limited access even worse.

One possible outcome: inequitable access based on race and income. As the article explains: (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

COVID-19 has not only created a health crisis and an economic crisis, but also a child care crisis.

A persistent and troubling concern is that child care programs that closed during the pandemic will shut down permanently, and parents in need of this care won’t be able to return to work, crippling the economy’s ability to stabilize.

There is, however, hope.

As the country rebuilds, it could invest wisely in child care programs, helping them to recover and emerge stronger.

Here are three takes on how this could occur.

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Families and businesses benefit from child care, JD Chesloff explains in a blog for ReadyNation, a part of Council for a Strong America, a national nonprofit that promotes children’s success. Chesloff is the executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and a ReadyNation advisory board member.

“Child care allows parents to work, be more productive while on the job, and reach higher levels of professional achievement. Nurturing learning environments prepare young children for kindergarten and future achievement in school and, eventually, in the workplace.” (more…)

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Last week, Amy O’Leary participated in a town hall meeting on child care and paid family leave organized by the Coalition for Social Justice. (The meeting starts at the 10:09 time mark.)

Launching the meeting, Jynai McDonald, the family child care coordinator for SEIU 509, thanked Congress for its initial $7 billion support of child care programs, and she called for more advocacy.

Child care, McDonald says, needs $50 billion.

Other speakers addressed the need for paid family leave that can protect parents and caregivers from having to choose between caring for children and relatives and losing their jobs. This is particularly important now given the threat of COVID-19 and the need for people who get sick from this virus to quarantine themselves for two weeks.

Amy, the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign, shared “what we know” about child care now. (more…)

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Last week was the latest entry in Strategies for Children’s Advocacy 101 webinars.

The topic: state budget updates — or, to put it more bluntly, what COVID-19 has done to the budget.

Earlier this year, before the pandemic shut down Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker submitted his fiscal year ’21 budget.

“This budget would have continued an eighth consecutive year of increases for early education,” Titus DosRemedios, Strategies director of research and policy, says in the webinar. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

COVID-19 has exposed long-term weaknesses in Massachusetts’ early education and care system – and made them worse, Joan Wasser Gish explains in a new CommonWealth Magazine article, “An early education system for a post-pandemic world.”

“If we are going to restore our economy, now and in the future,” the article says, “it will require a functioning system of affordable, accessible, high quality early education and care.”

Wasser Gish is a member of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care – and a former director of research and policy at Strategies for Children.

Long before COVID-19, she notes, families and early childhood programs have struggled with costs.

“Massachusetts has the second highest cost of child care in the nation, swallowing 39 percent of earnings in a typical Massachusetts family. For parents who work odd or unpredictable hours, or plan around the agrarian school calendar, child care is a decades-long, fraught, expensive patchwork.” (more…)

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Senator Elizabeth Warren talks to a very young constituent. Source: Senator Warren’s Instagram account

 

“I just want to start by thanking you for all the work you’re doing to keep children safe and to support our community,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) said Friday when she joined a Strategies for Children Zoom call, adding:

“This is an unprecedented time for our communities, for our nation, for the entire world — and a time when it is so easy for the most vulnerable, the ones who don’t have their own lobbyists in Washington to get left behind.”

In a lively, inspiring conversation, Warren shared details about the $50 billon child care bailout bill she co-filed with Senator Tina Smith (D-Minnesota) to help the early education and care field survive the coronavirus pandemic and thrive afterwards. Warren also listened to questions and feedback from providers.

“I know that a lot of you on this call have concerns about how the childcare market is going to make it through this very challenging situation. And that is the reason why I’m fighting so hard to help every child care provider weather this crisis and come out on the other side stronger than ever before,” Warren said.

“We’re fighting in Congress to make sure that the funding is there, so that when it’s safe, every child care provider is able to reopen their doors.”

Warren has a three-part plan for the field: (more…)

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“Our child care providers are essential workers on the front-lines of this crisis. By taking care of them, we’re also ensuring that other essential personnel can go to work without having to worry about who is taking care of their children.

“Congress must prioritize child care funding in all recovery and stimulus efforts. Investing in child care is an investment in public health, and in our economic recovery from this crisis.

“The debate over the next coronavirus relief package is raging in Washington, and we need you to make your voice heard.

Click [here]… and we’ll help you deliver a message to your legislator: Congress must invest at least $50 billion in child care through their coronavirus relief packages.”

 

“Speak up for Child Care,” Child Care Aware of America

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As a presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) was famous for “having a plan for that.”

And while her presidential bid has ended, she still has another vital plan: A $50 billion plan to bailout child care.

Based in part on her personal experience, Warren is a powerful advocate who understands the personal and economic importance of child care.

Last month, Warren shared the need for this wise investment in a Boston Globe op-ed she coauthored.

This week, a Medium article that Warren co-wrote with Senator Tina Smith (D-Minnesota) plainly says, “Here’s the stark truth: when the time comes, we will not be able to rebuild our economy if this country’s child care system has collapsed beneath the economic burden of this pandemic.”

“Meanwhile,” a Vox article about the senators’ position says, “parents are left wondering whether their children’s care providers will even be in business when the pandemic is over, making child care possibly harder to find and more expensive than before.”

This risk is real. As the senators say in their Medium article: (more…)

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