By Quinci LeGardye, California Black Media
Help is on the way for childcare providers in California — an industry rocked by widespread closures with surviving operators burdened by the weight of sharp increases in their operating costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But those companies offering babysitting and other related services will soon receive an infusion of much-needed monetary aid from the federal government.
On April 15, the Biden Administration announced the release of $39 billion in direct funding allocated for childcare providers in the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law on March 11.
California U.S. Congressmember Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) welcomed the President’s announcement.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a childcare crisis on top of a public health crisis. Child-care providers are almost entirely women and 40 percent are people of color. Providing relief to help keep childcare centers and schools open is critical for our students, parents, educators, and care providers, and is essential to support our country’s economic recovery and build back better.”
According to a September 2020 report compiled by the Center for American Progress, the cost of center-based childcare increased by 47 % due to enhanced health and safety requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost of home-based family childcare increased by 70 %. The report found that these increased costs were driven by the need for more staff and more sanitation supplies to meet COVID-19 protocols.
In this latest round of federal funding for childcare providers, about $25 billion will go towards funding grants through a childcare stabilization fund. Childcare providers can use these grants to help cover fixed costs like rent, make payroll and purchase sanitizing supplies. Another amount, around $15 billion, will be available as emergency funding through the Child Care and Development Fund, to provide childcare to essential workers. Lawmakers are also requiring that childcare providers who receive these funds make financial relief available for families struggling to pay tuition.
Combined with the $10 billion allocated in the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package, and $3.5 billion allocated in the March 2020 CARES Act, the child-care industry has now received more than $50 billion in federal support.
The Biden Administration’s announcement also highlighted the effects that the increased need for childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic have had on women and families of color. As of December 2020, about one in four early childhood and child-care providers that were open at the start of the pandemic have been closed.
The affected centers are disproportionately owned by people of color, and their closures have both put women of color out of work, and left families of color without childcare. Also, since the start of the pandemic, roughly 2 million women have left the work force due to caregiving needs.
On April 20, Lee released an announcement detailing the specific amount of funds available for California’s childcare providers.
Over $2.3 billion will be given to the Golden State from the child-care stabilization fund, her statement said. Another $1.4 billion is available through flexible funding to make childcare across California more affordable for families, increase access to care for families receiving subsidies and increase compensation for childcare workers.
“I’m pleased to see this funding come through for families and child-care providers in the East Bay and across our state,” said Lee.
In total, California will receive nearly $3.8 billion for providers and families.