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Child Care Administrators: More Federal Funds Needed to Shore Up Market

Washington, DC – The CARES Act provided $3.5 billion in supplemental Child Care and Development Block Grant funds to help states keep their child care systems available and afloat, especially for working parents deemed essential during the pandemic. State administrators told the Bipartisan Policy Center during a roundtable conversation last week that those federal funds have been critical but are beginning to run out, and that more is needed to help working parents—and the child care market they rely on—to make it through this pandemic and allow our economy to recover.

Watch the video replay of our state administrator roundtable

Administrators told BPC that the federal funds were essential to supporting child care providers as the pandemic set in, and reflected the important role that child care plays in the broader economy.

“We all desperately needed those CARES funds and we needed that CCDBG flexibility,” said Sarah Neville-Morgan, deputy superintendent for the Teaching and Learning Support Branch at the Department of Education in California. “It helped us stabilize the field in at least that moment.”

“We were very fortunate and excited to receive the CARES Act funding,” said Tracy Gruber, director of the Office of Child Care in Utah. “I thought it was really amazing that it was clear everyone understands the critical role child care plays in the nation’s economic infrastructure.”

But state administrators worry about the path ahead. Many child care providers were already operating on a financial knife’s edge and were unable to sustain the blow of a multi-month closure. Supplemental federal funds delayed some of that concern, but as the funds are running out, administrators fear what may happen to the child care industry.

“It is not an understatement to say we fear a full and complete collapse” of the child care market if additional funds are not offered, said Theresa Hawley, first assistant deputy governor of education in the Illinois governor’s office.

“We’re anticipating [the CARES Act] will fund a portion of our programs through the summer,” said Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, commissioner at the Department of Early Education and Care in Massachusetts. “We will need longer term solutions if we are going to sustain our programs.”

BPC’s child care experts are available for comment