Screen capture of the vote on child care in the House of Representatives.
Last week saw two important child care bills come to the floor of the House of Representative. Both passed with strong bipartisan support!
House Democrats brought both the Child Care is Essential (H.R.7027) and the Child Care for Economic Recovery (H.R.7327) Acts to the floor. In doing so, they set down an important marker of where funding for the industry should be.
The Child Care is Essential Act is focused on immediate coronavirus-related relief. If enacted, it would provide $50 billion in stabilization grants for child care providers to help them financially survive the forced closures, smaller class sizes and public health mandates that the pandemic has imposed.
The Child Care for Economic Recovery Act is – as the name suggests – more future focused. It includes increased levels of child care funding to the states, and much needed infrastructure investment to improve child care facilities across the country.
Many members of Congress came to the floor of the House to speak in favor of the bill, including the Child Care is Essential lead sponsor, Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), as well as the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act lead sponsor and Chairwoman of the Appropriations committee, Nita Lowey (D-NY). House leadership also made a point to come out in strong support – including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). She held a press conference and gave a powerful speech on the floor of the House of Representatives where she explained how child care providers are the “workforce behind the workforce.”
Growing Support for Child Care
The strong, bipartisan votes in favor of these bills offered the best sign of the waves that child care advocates are making on the Hill. Even though we live in highly partisan and polarized political times, where votes usually fall along strictly party lines, 18 Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues – all of whom voted in favor of the Child Care is Essential Act. 20 Republicans joined for the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act.
The scope of these two bills was historic. They went well beyond the approximately $5 billion that Congress has approved for the Child Care Development Block Grant program each year. But the fact that there was bipartisan support for both bills was truly remarkable. It’s part of a very encouraging trend we are seeing in response to the crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has waged on the child care industry.
In addition to these Republican votes, we have seen members from both parties prioritizing child care in their speeches, bill proposals, and votes. In May, Republican Senators Joni Ernst (IA) and Kelly Loeffler (GA) introduced S.Res.594, calling for $25 billion in investment in the child care industry in response to the crisis. And just last week, New York Congressman Tom Reed, along with 29 Republican colleagues, introduced a bill that would provide reopening grants for child care providers.
What Comes Next?
We should take a moment to appreciate the rise of support for child care that we are seeing in Congress, but we can’t lose sight of the challenges that still remain. We must get money to child care providers as soon as possible, so they can weather the COVID-19 storm.
While these bills passed the House, they are unlikely to be taken up by the Senate. Instead, the hope is that the funding provisions in the Child Care is Essential Act – $50 billion in stabilization grants for providers – get incorporated into the next COVID-19 stimulus package.
Leaders from both parties in the House and Senate are negotiating this package right now. And though some Republicans in the House showed their support of the $50 billion figure through their votes last week, most in the Senate are not onboard yet with a number that high.
Senate Republicans laid out the first draft of their proposed package last week – that they are calling the ‘HEALS Act’ – and it includes a total of $15 billion for child care. This is a welcome increase from previous figures (the COVID-19 stimulus package the Congress passed earlier this spring included $3.5 billion for child care, and previous Democratic proposals had just $7 billion). However, it is a far cry from the current needs of the industry. Now that the Child Care is Essential Act has passed with bipartisan support, we are hopeful that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will recognize that he must increase funding, and provide the industry with the support it desperately needs.
You can help make this happen by raising your voice in support of child care. As Speaker Pelosi said, it is the workforce behind the workforce, and an investment that we can’t afford not to make.