What would you do if you had to work outside your home to provide for your children, but couldn’t afford to pay for the care that allows you to go to your job? This is a dilemma millions of parents find themselves in around our country. In addition to juggling the costs of housing, utilities and other everyday items, parents are struggling to pay for childcare in our post-pandemic society.
That’s why President Biden’s decision to include $16 billion in childcare funding in the request for supplemental domestic spending is a big deal. If passed, this funding would take a significant step forward in addressing the childcare cliff our country is sliding into as House Republicans threaten to cut off vital funds for early education programs.
It would be a major relief for parents who need access to reliable, quality childcare. Right now, at least 3.2 million children could also lose access to early childhood education unless Congress acts. Federal childcare stabilization funds, including the Child Care Stabilization Grant that was a part of the American Rescue Plan, expired on Sept. 30, in what’s known as the “childcare cliff”.
President Biden’s push to address the childcare cliff would also provide much-needed relief to childcare providers like Tahiti Hamer. Despite playing a vital role in our economy, the childcare industry—largely occupied by Black and Brown women—is plagued by poverty. The industry’s lack of livable wages and benefits makes it hard for many providers to stay in a field they love. And when childcare programs close or when they don’t have enough staff, it makes care more scarce and costly for families.
Tahiti, a childcare center worker of 24 years, grapples daily with the demands of understaffing due to inadequate funding for early education programs. It’s extremely challenging to provide the quality childcare families need, when providers are not making nearly enough to be able to take care of their own families. Like many of the families she provides care for, Tahiti has to make tough financial decisions.
“We shouldn’t have to make those choices, like do I pay this bill or buy groceries? Do I pay this bill or give my kids school clothes?” Tahiti states.
Without significant policy intervention through passing the funding request, conditions will only worsen for the childcare industry. In my state of Illinois alone, 128,000 kids are at risk of losing care, while 12,000 child care programs are at risk of closing without these childcare stabilization funds. Fortunately, our union, SEIU Healthcare, and with our allies in Congress, like Representative Nikki Budzinski, are working to raise awareness about the childcare crisis and the solutions we need.
Rep. Budzinski has been a champion for extending the Child Care Stabilization Grants that many providers and parents rely on, and she has worked tirelessly to uplift childcare as a racial equity issue. However, more work has to be done for us to address this crisis as a nation.
Make no mistake: This is an emergency. That’s why SEIU members and so many working parents are calling on Congress to act now. They should start by answering the President’s call to prevent working families from losing access to affordable childcare.
Childcare providers play a significant role in ensuring our country has a healthy economy now and in the future. We must work to build a system where childcare jobs are good jobs, and to enact a world where all parents can access care regardless of how much they earn or where they live.
As Tahiti says, childcare industry workers shouldn’t have to choose between taking care of our families and providing the best services for our communities.
More on the childcare cliff
Federal pandemic-era funding dried up at the end of September, impacting many families and childcare centers. Here’s what to know.