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Screenshot: The White House Twitter account

 

Inaugurated yesterday, President Joe Biden is already busy. Among his most important early efforts is a plan to address the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, a $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal that includes $40 billion for child care.

The need is, as CNBC reports, substantial. “Women are being particularly hard hit, either missing out on promotions, having to leave the workforce, or losing their jobs. One in 4 are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether, according to a September report by Lean In and McKinsey & Co.

“Meanwhile, women accounted for 100% of the jobs lost in December, an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center found.”

Biden’s plans could have a historic impact.

“Not since the New Deal during the Great Depression have we seen such an ambitious economic stimulus plan,” C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, tells the New York Times. “What that signals to me is that the new administration understands the magnitude of the problem.”

In a press release CLASP (the Center for Law and Social Policy) says of Biden’s proposed stimulus: (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Extending from Tuesday’s deadline to the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the 2019-2020 state legislative session has come to a close. Wednesday also saw the beginning of the first day of the 2021-2022 legislative session, as legislators were sworn into office.

Where does the final FY21 state budget stand? This budget includes much-needed investments in the child care sector, to help mitigate the ongoing effects of the pandemic. The FY21 state budget includes a $165 million (25 percent) increase for early education and care over FY20 spending amounts.

Governor Baker had signed the budget into law on December 11, making several vetoes including $16.5 million in vetoes to early education and care line items. However, by Monday, the Legislature had voted to override all of the early education vetoes.

Here’s a recap of what the final FY21 budget for early education and care: (more…)

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Photo: Gagan Kaur, from Pexels

 

On Sunday, Congress hashed out a second, $900 billion stimulus package to help the country weather the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, Congress passed the bill.

It’s an investment that includes $10 billion for child care providers who have struggled during the pandemic.

“Although the vast majority of child-care programs opened back up after the spring stay-at-home orders lifted, many daycare center and preschool owners are taking on huge financial losses — both personal and professional,” a CNBC story explains.

The story adds:

“About 56% of child-care providers report losing money by staying open, according to the latest survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Moreover, 42% of the December survey respondents say they have taken on debt using personal credit cards to pay for supplies and other items.

“That’s because many centers are still operating at lower capacities, even as costs rise. The survey found that 91% are paying extra for cleaning supplies, 73% have taken on extra expenses for personal protective equipment and 60% are paying additional staff wages.”

The stimulus will help, but there is, as CNBC adds, an important caveat: (more…)

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Across Massachusetts, after closing because of the pandemic, early education and care providers have been reopening, navigating the challenges created by COVID-19.

“We still are ahead of many, many states in our reopening capacity,” Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, said at a recent department board meeting, public radio station WBUR reports. “While that is really great, what we’re hearing back is many of those [providers] are at a level of vulnerability that could easily put us behind the country quickly as well.”

WBUR adds:

“Eighty-two percent of the state’s licensed providers reopened as of Nov. 23, according to the latest survey from the Department of Early Education and Care. But, many providers told the state that reopening has come with a slew of financial challenges. Many reported struggles to find qualified staffers, or families to fill available slots. Some were forced to contend with the costs of temporary closures because of suspected or confirmed exposure to the coronavirus.” (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

It has been a turbulent year for state budget proceedings in Massachusetts. The fiscal year 2021 budget has been delayed since July due to the pandemic. Instead of a full budget for the entire year, the state has passed monthly budgets which essentially extend the fiscal year 2020 budget one month at a time. There was also a supplemental budget for the FY20 fiscal year, which Governor Baker signed on July 24, 2020. That budget included critical funding related to COVID-19 relief for early education and care, including $45.6 million in federal CARES Act funding used for child care reopening grants.

In October, Governor Baker released his revised FY21 budget proposal, which he had originally released in January. This budget preserved and increased funding for early education and care, while also proposing a new Early Education COVID Recovery Fund.

Now in November, the FY21 budget is rapidly coming together. The House passed its budget last week; it contains much needed funding for early education and care, including a $20 million rate increase for early educators and $10 million for a reserve to reduce fees for parents enrolling in subsidized child care. The House budget also earmarks up to $50 million in the two child care access accounts for COVID-related child care stabilization funding and incentive pay for early educators.

House Budget: H.5150

Executive Summary

House Amendments, Consolidated Amendment A

(more…)

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Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera. Source: City of Lawrence website

“There are a ton of problems that we’re facing with COVID-19: public health, unemployment, education,” Mayor Dan Rivera said on a recent Strategies for Children Zoom call about his city, Lawrence, Mass.

One of those problems cropped up at the end of August, when police found a woman running an unlicensed child care program with 25 children in her apartment.

“We had to shut the place down,” Rivera says, “but this wasn’t an opportunity to arrest somebody or throw a huge fine at them. That to me would have been criminalizing poverty because most of the people that were bringing their kids there couldn’t afford to have child care or couldn’t find affordable safe child care.”

Back in August, Rivera said it would be better to educate parents and to talk to employers about their workers’ child care needs.

Rivera also found another solution to the problem: himself.

He asked Maria Gonzalez Moeller, CEO of The Community Group, a local nonprofit provider, how much it would cost to provide child care for 200 kids. Then he went to the Lawrence City Council and asked for $400,000 in emergency funds to finance child care scholarships. (more…)

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Right after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, early childhood education (ECE) advocates were dealing with the immediate crisis and, simultaneously, talking about what the global health crisis would mean for the future.

“We wanted to create a space for that conversation,” Albert Wat, a senior policy director at the Alliance for Early Success, said on a recent Strategies for Children Zoom call.

“We met almost weekly for four months,” Wat says of the 13 states and eight national organizations who joined the conversation. Strategies for Children, an Alliance grantee, represented Massachusetts. “We didn’t want to limit ourselves to current fiscal and policy constraints.”

Instead the group talked about a “North star,” an untethered vision of what the country could do to rebuild child care.

“We wanted to be bold, but we also wanted to be pragmatic,” Wat said.

The result is “Build Stronger: A Child Care Policy Roadmap for Transforming Our Nation’s Child Care System.” (more…)

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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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Report screenshot

 

Even before they are born children face systemic inequalities.

A new report digs into this national problem.

“More than half of the 74 million children in the United States are children of color, and they are served by learning systems that are gravely inequitable. The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the health, economic wellbeing, and education of young children, only exacerbate existing inequalities,” according to the report, “Start with Equity: From the Early Years to the Early Grades.”

Released by The Children’s Equity Project, at Arizona State University, and the Bipartisan Policy Center, the report is, according to its website, “an actionable policy roadmap for states and the federal government—as well as for candidates at all levels of government vying for office—to take meaningful steps to remedy these inequities in early learning and education systems.”

These themes are also explored in a related webinar series. Links to recordings of the first two webinars, which took place earlier this month, are available on the report website. The next two webinars will be on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, and Thursday, August 6, 2020.

The report and webinars draw on two meetings of “more than 70 experts from universities, think tanks and organizations.” These experts focused on three policy areas where inequities persist: (more…)

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