After a devastating year for so many, Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) is building on the incredible work of our advocates to keep pushing for access to high-quality, affordable child care for all in 2021 and beyond.
As COVID-19 continues to impact every part of life in this country, we are continuing to call on Congress to provide much needed relief for the child care industry. The $10 billion for child care secured in the package Congress passed in December was a fantastic start, but wasn’t enough. We are hopeful that the new Congress as well as the newly inaugurated Biden-Harris administration work together to pass the remainder of the money needed to help child care providers weather this storm quickly.
Here’s a breakdown of how we can build back better for child care!
We need to make sure there are longer term, sustainable investments in child care – so we can truly build back better. The pandemic has illuminated just how essential the child care industry is and shown us how fragile the system has always been. The pandemic has also made clear that big investments are needed to ensure more children have access to high-quality early education, not only in the months ahead, but also the years to come.
The underlying problems with child care in the United States include widespread child care deserts, astronomical costs for parents and low-pay for child care providers, which have been laid bare and also exacerbated by the pandemic.
Invest in Existing Programs
SCAN supports a range of legislative solutions to tackle the issues facing child care. This includes increases in the funding the government uses for key child care programs, such as Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG).
CCDBG funds, for example, provide child care for around 2 million children. That’s great, but guess what? This amounts to only approximately 15% of all children eligible for the subsidy due to their family income levels. Similarly, only around a third of children eligible for Head Start are actually enrolled in Head Start programs, and only around 1 in 10 eligible kids are enrolled in Early Head Start.
Make Child Care More Affordable
In addition to expanding the reach of existing programs, we also want to see expanded support for parents who pay for child care out of their own family budget. Ask any parent currently paying for child care and they will tell you just how expensive it is. The average cost of child care is more than double the average cost of in-state tuition at four-year public colleges!
The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) reforms proposed in President Biden’s ‘Rescue Plan’ would help alleviate some of these costs for parents. The CDCTC changes would increase the ‘allowable expenses’ that parents can claim back through the tax credit and, crucially, make the tax credit fully refundable. This would mean that families who have low incomes, and thus pay low or no taxes, would still receive financial help for their child care expenses.
Build Our Child Care Infrastructure
Finally, in addition to increasing the funding for programs and helping parents out with the costs of child care, we need to make investments in the infrastructure of child care. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how important a healthy environment is for kids. One way to rebuild the infrastructure is to expand and upgrade child care facilities. According to experts, it’s estimated the sector is in need of at least $10 billion in investment.
The other key piece of child care infrastructure that is desperately in need of investment is the child care workforce. The vast majority of child care educators are women, of which 40% are women of color. Despite the crucial role they have in the most important years of a child’s life, they are woefully underpaid – with the average child care educator earning around just $12 per hour.
Many of those caring for our children are struggling to support their own families, and don’t have the opportunity to invest in their own professional development. As a result the sector experiences high teacher turnover, and ultimately lower quality early education than our children deserve.
As we look to recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and towards a healthier future there is no better time to be investing in children. The child care industry is the backbone of our nation’s economy and a vital part of any COVID-19 relief package. Investing and rebuilding the child care system so that it’s reliable, accessible and sustainable is in the best interest of everyone. Child care is essential to our shared future. We must treat it as such!