Biden asks Congress for $16 billion to reverse child-care funding ‘cliff’

The Biden-Harris Administration asked Congress for an extra $16 billion to support the childcare sector after the pandemic childcare stabilization fund expired Sept 30. 

The proposal was part of the emergency supplemental-funding request the administration made Wednesday, asking for around $55 billion for domestic crises. It also included funding requests for programs such as disaster response, affordable high-speed internet, energy assistance and the fight against fentanyl. Going forward, the proposed legislation would still face Congress’s decision on what to do with it. 

The proposal asked to extend the childcare-stabilization funding for one more year so that it can “help keep providers afloat, mitigating the likelihood that providers will close or raise costs for families.”

The United States hit the “child-care” cliff on Sept. 30, when the government’s $24 billion funding to child-care providers — part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan — expired. After the expiration, some centers could no longer afford to hire workers or continue to pay expenses such as rent and utilities.

Going forward, it could become much more costly for providers to offer care, which many parents already struggle to pay tuition for. Providers have already had to face decisions, such as laying off workers or closing down the programs without any additional funding. 

Many states have passed legislation in the past year to provide more money for child care, but advocates and providers said nothing can replace the lost federal funding. 

Read: $24 billion in pandemic-era funding for child care just expired. Will it impact your family?

In states including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, child-care centers and programs have closed down, said Julie Kashen, the director of women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank based in New York. The sector is already struggling to find qualified child-care workers. 

Southwestern Child Development Commission, a nonprofit focusing on early education in western North Carolina, announced last week that it will close down seven agency-operated programs starting from Oct. 31

“We no longer have adequate agency resources to supplement the state rate,” the agency said in the announcement. The agency raised the tuition rates on Oct. 1, but new rates offered little support to the rural counties where these programs were based, it said. 

“The United States has already gone over the child care cliff, an abrupt ending to the federal funds that stabilized the sector,” Kashen said in a statement. “Congress must pass the emergency funding included in the Administration’s supplemental budget request not only for children and families but for the strong labor market and economic prosperity that come with investing in care,” she said. 

Also read: The rising cost of childcare is making life impossible for parents. Use our calculator to track the expense where you live.

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