The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on our nation’s already fragile child care industry. Early on in this crisis, our parent survey found nearly every household had experienced a change in work, 60% of child care programs were temporarily closed, and while the need for child care still exists, parents were concerned about returning to their child care program when they would be able to. Other studies have shown that, due to these compounding factors, many child care programs might not survive the crisis. What’s more, the federal funding provided to states and designed to keep child care providers afloat is beginning to run out. State administrators say without additional funding more providers may be at risk of permanent closure.
The federal government, through the CARES Act, allocated $3.5 billion in Child Care and Development Block Grant funds to provide child care to essential workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, and gave states wide flexibility in how they could use such funding. Therefore, states took a variety of approaches when it came to child care during the height of the pandemic. Our survey found that while a quarter of parents were not aware of their state’s plan for child care operations during the pandemic, of those who were aware, the vast majority (82%) were supportive of their state’s decisions.
To learn more about how the CARES Act funds were spent by states, and the impacts they are having, BPC talked with 10 state child care administrators: California, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, and Washington. There was consensus among the administrators that the CARES Act funds made a difference and were needed, but were not enough to sustain the market past the summer and into the fall, just as states start to reopen their economies. It is clear this pandemic is far from over, and therefore, more federal funding and targeted policy approaches to support the sustainability of this critical market are necessary.