U.S. Senators Smith, Warren Successfully Secure More Than $40B for Childcare & Early Learning in Senate COVID-19 Relief Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. [3/6/21]—Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) successfully secured more than $40 billion for childcare and early learning resources in the Senate-passed COVID-19 relief package.

With the funding from the package passed today, $10 billion from the December-passed relief bill, and the $3.5 billion provided in the CARES Act, Sens. Smith and Warren have made good on their push to secure $50 billion for childcare.

“We’ve known that our country’s childcare system is on the brink of collapse, and that women are bearing the brunt of the cost,” said Sen. Smith. “My colleague Senator Warren and I have been pushing to support the childcare system, and we’ve been determined to get this over the finish line. We outlined our vision for $50 billion in childcare relief just less than a year ago, and with this latest package we’ve made good on our plan. We’ve been resolute in this effort because it is essential to keep families, providers and our economy afloat.”

“Right now, child care providers are struggling to keep their doors open while a pandemic and economic crisis devastate a system that was already deeply broken,” said Sen. Warren. “Senator Smith and I have been fighting for a $50 billion child care bailout since April – this bill finally gets us there and gives us a solid foundation as we look toward building a child care system that works for every family. ”

“As I look at the early care and education system in Minnesota it is a vibrant and dedicated community,” said Kraig Gratke, Executive Director of MN Head Start Association. “It is a community though that is in desperate need of support. COVID 19 has closed many providers doors creating a tremendous need for early care and education. The greatest impact has been on children under three years of age and children who live in poverty. Our racially diverse communities have been tremendously impacted. There simple are not many options for early care and education in a lot of communities. This support will open doors, create spaces for our youngest children, allow parents to feel safe about where their children are when they return to school or work. The babies in our communities are suffering while their family’s struggle. In Early Head Start and Head Start this money will help stabilize families and scaffold services that will allow them to move forward, it will provide support to address the trauma that so many of our little people are having to work through every day. It will get them ready for school and to be lifelong learners. We appreciate Senator Smith’s leadership in the effort to help the youngest most vulnerable children in Minnesota.”

“Minnesota child care providers have stepped up to serve families who needed us throughput this Pandemic,” said Chad Dunkley, CEO of New Horizon Academy. “Most of us never closed because we know communities and our workforce cannot function without our services. Today we are still operating at far less than capacity and we have increased costs to keep our children and early educators safe. We still need continued financial support until this pandemic is truly behind us. If we are forced to close our schools the ripple effects for families returning to work would be devastating. The child care supports in this rescue package are a critical lifeline to save this essential service for families with young children.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the importance of child care to our economy,” said President and CEO Jerry Cutts and Minnesota Director Suzanne Pearl of First Children’s Finance. “The child care sector is the ‘workforce behind the workforce’ – an essential public good that is delivered largely outside of the public infrastructure. As America’s economy rebuilds, child care is critical to the recovery of working families and businesses. First Children’s Finance appreciates Senator Smith’s steadfast support of the child care sector and encourages Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan Act.”

“This is desperately needed help that can’t arrive soon enough,” said Ericca Maas, Executive Director Close Gaps by 5. “If invested wisely by state governments, it will be a huge boost for parents, small businesses, communities, and the most vulnerable children.”

“Minnesota families with children have been hit harder than others by COVID,” said Debra Fitzpatrick, Policy and Legislative Affairs Director for the Children’s Defense Fund. “Sen. Smith’s leadership in helping us get federal support for child care has kept families, providers and the Minnesota economy from collapsing, but our continued recovery depends the additional support. We hope other Senators will join Sen. Smith in making this wise investment a priority — allowing kids to be in stable, nurturing settings while also allowing their parents to work.”

The legislation passed today—the American Rescue Plan—will provide more than $40 billion for childcare and early learning via:

$15 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which provides for expanded eligibility for essential workers regardless of their income;
$24 billion to Child Care Stabilization Funding, mirroring the activities outlined in the Child Care is Essential Act;
$1 billion for Head Start; and
$3 billion in new mandatory funding for child care programs.

This investment is vital, as just last month the Minneapolis Fed shared that mothers have increasingly left the labor force to care for their children, and that labor force participation among mothers in Minnesota dropped 11 percent. Mothers have been pushed out of the labor force, and supporting the childcare industry is needed to ensure women’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

Sens. Smith and Warren first announced their plan for $50 billion for childcare on April 15 of last year in this post. A month later, Sens. Smith and Warren helped introduce the Childcare is Essential Act. Following their Medium post, an analysis estimated that at least $9.6 billion is needed each month to preserve the nation’s child care system during COVID-19. They sent a letter on March 21 to Senate leadership and again on April 28, calling on them to include the Child Care is Essential Act in COVID-19 relief packages. The need for at least $50 billion in child care funding was also echoed by a broad coalition of childcare advocates nationwide, and you can access the full list here.