WASHINGTON, D.C. [03/31/20]—Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (D-Minn.)—along with 20 of their Democratic Senate colleagues—urged the Office of Child Care within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take additional steps to expand child care options for health care workers and others on the frontlines responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The senators also advocated for providers by urging the Office of Child Care to provide critical guidance so centers that remain open know how to take appropriate action to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, and to share details of how the emergency funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) as part of the third COVID-19 response package will be used most effectively.
“Frontline workers are needed at their places of employment now more than ever, but in many cases do not have safe child care for their children…We must work together to identify ways to provide child care access to workers who are performing necessary services, like health care workers, and ensure that all child care providers that remain open have the support and guidance necessary to provide accessible and safe care during this pandemic,” wrote Sens. Klobuchar, Smith and their colleagues. “As the primary support for early childhood education programs at the federal level, the Office of Child Care is best positioned to provide guidance on how to most effectively activate child care providers across the country to meet the current, critical needs. Your input is especially useful in ensuring that the $3.5 billion in additional emergency funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) under the CARES Act, the third COVID-19 response package, is used most effectively. As we work to get needed support to child care providers across the country, we must also work to activate this emergency funding to provide essential child care assistance to workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 response efforts, including health care sector employees, emergency responders, and sanitation workers.”
In addition to Sens. Klobuchar and Smith, the letter—led by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)—was signed by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
The bipartisan COVID-19 package that the president signed into law last week includes $3.5 billion in emergency funding for the CCDBG, and the senators are calling on the HHS to provide details by April 6, 2020 about what the department is doing to ensure that this funding is used effectively.
You can read the senators’ letter here.
In 2019, Sen. Klobuchar introduced the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN 07) to address the national shortage of affordable, quality child care, especially in rural communities.
Sen. Klobuchar has also cosponsored the Childcare for Working Families Act, legislation that would ensure that no family making under 150 percent of their state’s median income spends more than seven percent of their income on child care and provide workers with up to 12 weeks of paid family leave.
Sen. Smith has long made child care access and affordability a top priority, and this month she led a number of her Senate colleagues in urging Senate leadership to support child care as part of the third coronavirus legislative package. Last year, Sen. Smith—who has held “Child Care Access and Affordability” listening sessions in 13 communities across Minnesota—continued her work to ensure families in Minnesota and across the country are able to access high-quality childcare by pushing to invest in important programs like Head Start and the Child Care & Development Block Grant. Sen. Smith is glad the funding legislation passed by Congress in December of last year provided record investments in early learning programs and child care because these investments help parents and kids and garner pay-offs for years to come.