Exactly one year ago, our nation went into an unprecedented lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the rhythm of life as we knew it. Restaurants, stores, schools and child care centers all closed their doors. Employees who could began remote work. What many folks thought would be over in two weeks ended up dragging into months, with no end in sight.
The pandemic came in like a storm. Immediately, it caused massive disruptions to our nation’s economy. As parent’s juggled work and online schooling, many also had to step in to fill the void of child care. Soon enough, the impact on families became staggering. Parents, especially mothers, were missing out on work because of child care demands. By the summer months, 40% of child care centers said they would be forced to shut their doors for good without public support, leaving millions of children without safe places to learn and socialize with other kids.
Seeing this desperate need for help, Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) joined other advocacy groups in calling for funding to save the child care industry. Together with our advocates, we sent close to 200,000 messages to Congress asking them for robust funding to support child care. We also virtually met and called dozens of lawmakers throughout the year. By sharing powerful stories of how the pandemic impacted our children and our communities, we helped move the needle forward.
On March 10, 2021, nearly a year after our country went into lockdown, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan which included historic levels of funding ($39 billion, on top of $10 billion passed in December!) to support the child care industry. We checked-in with a few of our advocates to hear what this victory means for their community and what they look forward to as we work to rebuild our economy. Here’s what they said:
“Over the past year so many of our businesses have struggled. We have struggled health wise and in so many other ways. But now, Congress has passed a stimulus bill that will truly help the child care industry. And, what happens when quality child care is provided? Parents can go back to work and hopefully, our economy can build and grow again. I am very grateful for Congress for passing this stimulus bill!” – Michelle Green, early childhood educator, South Carolina
“I am so excited about the passage of the 2021 stimulus bill. It is going to be such an immense help to child care centers across the nation. As we get money to build a high-quality child care program, [it will help] take some of the pressure of the backs of parents who had to support it all…It is so important for everyone to get us back to where we need to be again and help all of America by educating our youngest citizens.” – Leslie Morris, child care provider, Tennessee
“By providing funding to support the [child care] industry, Congress has demonstrated its recognition of the value of what child care brings to our economy. These monies help providers retain our staff and keep our doors open to families. This intentional influx of support makes me, as a small business owner and early education provider, feel seen, heard and respected.” – Lois Martin, early childhood director, Washington State
We thank our advocates for their dedicated support throughout an exceptionally difficult year. Their activism ultimately led Congress to pass a relief bill with not just child care benefits, but many other child-friendly policies. Now, child care providers will receive desperately needed funds to stay open, fewer kids will go hungry and more kids will survive and thrive around the world!