Senator Elizabeth Warren’s New Bill Aims To Help Child Care Industry
On April 15, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced a new legislative plan that would earmark $50 billion for America’s child care system in the next coronavirus relief package in an attempt to save the struggling industry.
With the coronavirus pandemic mandating the continued closure of child care centers across the country, many experts say the industry is in danger of never recovering financially. But while the closures are necessary from a public health standpoint, “this has pushed child care providers to the absolute brink: forced to either close their doors to stop the spread of the virus, or stay open around the clock to provide emergency care for children of essential workers,” the senators write in a piece introducing the proposal.
The plan would provide emergency funding to centers caring for the children of frontline workers, avoid additional layoffs by sending funds to centers that are struggling to fund their payroll, and more generally investing in the sector by improving access to child care and increasing the wages of providers.
“These structural investments are key to ensure the sector is prepared to care for the children of all Americans trying to get back to work once we are beyond this crisis,” the senators said in their statement.
Advocates have hailed the bill for acknowledging the vital work of the nation’s childcare providers, who are overwhelmingly both women and low wage workers. In recent months, child care workers have already started to bring attention to how vital their industry is. Workers in California, for example, have organized for better working conditions and wages, a problem that predated the current public health emergency, but which has been further highlighted during it.
“The economic strength of families nationwide rests on the backs of a marginalized and underpaid workforce bearing the brunt of this pandemic and this recession,” Catherine White, Director of Child Care and Early Learning at National Women’s Law Center, told Supermajority News.
White also cautioned that without government intervention, access to child care in the United States will become even more difficult in the months and years to come. The answer, she said, is to treat child care workers like the essential workers they are. “If child care providers are forced to endure this crisis without support from lawmakers, many will be forced to close their doors,” she said. Those closures would create a domino effect of sorts, “leaving other frontline workers without the child care they need now and all of us without a child care system in place to help us recover from this public health and economic crisis.”