May 20, 2020 11:32am
GLI urges Congress to take action to prioritize the child care sector
In a letter to greater Louisville’s congressional delegation, GLI stressed the need for the federal government to prioritize the child care sector as our regional economy begins to reopen. “In this pivotal moment in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that we take every step necessary to ensure a safe and lasting economic recovery. For this reason, we write to encourage you and your colleagues in Congress to prioritize federal support for child care services, which we, as business leaders in our community, view as essential to a successful economic recovery,” stated GLI Renewal Task Force Chair Kerry Stemler and GLI President & CEO Sarah Davasher-Wisdom. The letter also highlighted several measures Congress could pursue to protect the child care sector and support workforce development during the pandemic.
GLI has long advocated for increased investment in child care at the state and federal levels because of the impact that child care has on workforce participation and early childhood development. From the perspective of our bi-state region, Kentucky and Indiana both lose an estimated $1 billion in annual economic activity due to problems related to access to child care. Much of this lost economic activity is the result of too many working parents not finding access to high-quality child care, which forces them out of the labor force.
The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to exacerbate these problems and, in turn, decrease our chances of a successful recovery. According to a March 2020 survey of more than 6,000 child care providers, a sobering 46 percent said they could not financially survive a closure of longer than a month. As states allow providers to reopen, an already fragile industry will be faced with a smaller customer base, limited cash flow, and major new health and safety requirements. Because many childcare workers fall into vulnerable populations in the context of COVID-19, providers may also face a severe workforce shortage.
As we attempt to restart our economy, millions of working parents and small business owners may soon learn that the network of child care centers they depend on to care for and educate their children no longer exists. This will prohibit employees from returning to work and small business owners from restarting operations.
To address this issue, GLI gathered feedback from members of the business community, nonprofit sector, and child care professionals to develop a list of policy recommendations for Congress to consider. These recommendations are in addition to the aid already provided by Congress through the CARES Act.
- GLI supports efforts to appropriate $50 billion in emergency stimulus funds to prevent the collapse of the childcare sector and to ensure that childcare providers will be fully operational as the economy reopens and America returns to work. These funds will help providers close the gap to financial solvency as they operate at unsustainable levels of low capacity throughout the initial phases of the economic recovery.
- Congress should allocate additional funding through stipends or accessible grant opportunities to childcare providers to assist them in complying with new health and safety guidelines, such as hiring additional staff as a result of increasing staff-to-children ratios and acquiring PPE. This will promote health and safety and ensure that these new expenses are not cost prohibitive.
- Congress should also consider creating a new forgivable federal loan program similar to the Paycheck Protection Program, or carved out within that program, tailored to the unique needs of childcare providers. Federal agencies that already interact with childcare providers on a regular basis – such as the Administration for Children and Families – should play a role in coordinating this program and disseminating guidance and information to providers.
- As the country begins moving forward into a full-scale economy recovery, Congress must solidify its commitment to removing child care as a barrier to work by allocating the necessary funds to increase state-administrated child care subsidies and reimbursement rates to providers.
Read GLI’s full letter here.