The pandemic exposed many of the cracks in how our country approaches child care and early care and education (ECE). It also created an opportunity to address and improve how we support children, working parents, and ECE professionals.
This was the focus of our recent webinar Harnessing the American Rescue Plan Act to Support Innovation in Child Care, hosted with the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) as part of the Investing in the Future of Child Care initiative. The event brought together leaders in the field to discuss the many challenges states, territories, and tribes face as more than $39 billion in federal money arrives in the form of Child Care Stabilization Grants and supplemental Child Care Development funds. Panelists discussed how to manage and organize around the federal funds, as well as the role of business in supporting and empowering change.
The American Rescue Plan Act Offers the Child Care Sector an Opportunity
“In my 25-year career I’ve never seen such an infusion from the federal government. Yes, it’s a once in a generation opportunity,” said Elizabeth Gaines, founder and executive director of Children’s Funding Project. “It requires a lot of coordinated effort because if we don’t coordinate in those big buckets of funding that are coming down to localities, we’re going to miss groups, we’re going to miss kids, and we’re going to have inequitable distribution and potentially inequitable outcomes.”
Child care, and those who operate child care businesses, are crucial to the future success of the U.S. economy. Without it, parents are unable to go to work and vital small child care businesses—many operated by women of color—cannot contribute to the vibrancy of the American economy.
Angie Garling, LIIF’s vice president for early care and education, who moderated the first half of the webinar, talked about the importance of continued advocacy for early care and education.
“If anything, we hope that all of the attendees today will leave with the understanding that the stimulus money is temporary. It can help stabilize the field, and it can also demonstrate how additional dollars are needed to operate an effective and thriving early care and education system,” she said.
Rural Communities Are Important
One critical issue that states will have to address is how to allocate funds between urban and rural areas. Historically, rural areas in states like Nevada have suffered from unequal resources, including a lack of structure around licensing and the difficulty of measuring outcomes for children in care.
Denise Tanata, Nevada Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems director for The Children’s Cabinet, said it is important that every family in Nevada that needs care has access. She recommended funds be distributed equitably by states to ensure that those who need support have it.
“I think it’s also important that at the state-level we are watching to see if those funds are going back from those jurisdictions, that we’re not penalizing those communities by not partnering or not leveraging resources. We need to put a spotlight on those communities where they may or may not have the support from their local government, and make sure as a state that we’re making those investments.”
Support Across the Board for Child Care
Jessica Monge Coria, regional manager for Community Development in Southern California at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, who led the second half of the webinar, emphasized the role small businesses and companies will play in shaping the future of child care.
From the start, it was clear that panelists viewed child care and advocacy for children as a bipartisan issue.
“This is an issue that has enormous support on both sides of the aisle,” said Humberto Estratalan, director of policy at UNITE-LA. “Red, blue, purple—it doesn’t matter where you stand. Investing in child care is something that we all want.”
Estratalan noted how, for example, paying child care workers higher wages ultimately leads to a larger earnings pool, more money to spend by those workers, and overall higher tax revenue for state and federal economies.
Businesses Need Workers
Shelly Masur, California state director for Council for a Strong America, said the pandemic really brought home the notion for businesses—both big and small—of just how important child care is to ensure smooth operations for a company.
“Without people to work, businesses can’t operate, and if people don’t have child care they can’t go to work,” she said. “We know, and our business leaders know, that they need child care to be open. They need it to be successful. They need it to be affordable. Or their workers can’t work.”
Watch the event recording and read the transcript: Harnessing the American Rescue Plan Act to Support Innovation in Child Care
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The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.