Common Good Iowa

Now is the time for Congress to act on child care

Posted on 10/20/2020 at 12:00 AM by Anne Discher

Iowa child care providers can’t seem to catch a break. Many are still struggling to re-open and stay open in the wake of a pandemic — and damage caused by severe weather. This leaves working families with few, if any, options for child care, assuming they can even afford it.

The need for additional federal aid for child care has never been greater. A July survey of providers conducted by Iowa’s Department of Human Services (DHS) is telling of the stark challenges providers still face:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 providers (23 percent) have closed temporarily since March

  • On average, providers have seen their enrollment decline by 20 percent — though some larger centers report up to 80 percent in enrollment drop

  • A staggering 93 percent of providers have financial loss

And that was before derecho ripped through Iowa on August 10, causing structural damage to child care centers and homes in its path.

Providers have received some relief in the form of stipends and grants, thanks to funding from the CARES Act. Yet DHS has not used all available resources. We strongly urge the department to leverage every last dollar and help providers keep their doors open.

But that’s the bare minimum. As helpful as $500 grants may be, much more is required to keep this vital industry afloat. We, along with many other child care advocates, have been sounding the alarm for months: providers cannot stay in business — and families can’t access care — unless Congress acts swiftly and boldly.

Iowans needed Congress to pass a robust relief package before the August recess; unfortunately, it didn’t happen. And while House members from both parties and the White House have reportedly resumed negotiations, Senate Majority Leader McConnell appears unwilling to hold separate votes on a relief package and the continuing resolution required to keep the federal government funded after September.  

That means no relief, if any, for a child care industry in crisis until the end of next month — unless the Senate decides to do its job and prioritize people facing unprecedented need.

We must hold our elected leaders accountable and make clear the urgency of the situation. Iowa families and communities can’t wait until the end of September for relief — we need a robust package now, one that makes child care a top priority.

Congress must provide at least $50 billion in funding for child care to meet immediate need and sustain the industry.

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