Chair DeLauro Statement at COVID-19 and the Child Care Crisis Hearing

2021-02-19 11:17
Statement

House Appropriations Committee Chair and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on COVID-19 and the Child Care Crisis:

I want to acknowledge Ranking Member Cole and all of our colleagues joining us as we come together to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and the child care crisis.

Let me also welcome our witnesses this morning: Melissa Boteach, Vice President, Income Security and Child Care/Early Learning, National Women’s Law Center, Georgia Goldburn, Director, Hope Child Development Center, Dr. Theresa Hawley, First Assistant Deputy Governor, Education, Office of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, Dr. Katharine Stevens, Visiting Scholar, American Enterprise Institute.

I will provide a more fulsome introduction before their testimony, but we are so glad you could join us this morning. Thank you for the work that you do every day.

The fight for child care is such an important one, but it breaks my heart that it has to be a fight at all. I have said time and again that the United States has been teetering on the brink of a child care crisis. But now this COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us over the edge. Even before this pandemic began, affordable child care was already a significant and severe issue. Now, this pandemic has further exacerbated and exposed existing disparities.

Women, particularly women of color, have been disproportionately impacted by this crisis. The National Women’s Law Center reports that since February last year, women have lost over 5.3 million net jobs and account for 53.8 percent of overall job loss since the beginning of this pandemic. Recent data on job losses also revealed that employers cut 140,000 jobs in December. Every single job cut belonged to a woman, and mothers with young children were hit particularly hard. While this was an issue, as I said, before the pandemic, COVID-19 has intensified these problems, especially for women of color.

Part of this has to do with child care. Lack of child care has been cited as a reason why women are still highly reflected in unemployment numbers. According to Ms. Boteach testimony, “approximately 32 percent of employers said they had already seen employees leave since the pandemic, and half of those cited child care as the reason.”

To be clear, women are not opting out of the workforce, but rather, they are being pushed by inadequate policies.  We have a real opportunity here, not just to throw money at the problems, but to build the architecture for the future and use this as a moment to address these serious inequities that have been further exposed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Because it is unconscionable that each day hard-working women, mothers, and families have to make a choice between going to work and ensuring that their kids are properly cared for. For those parents who are essential workers or who need to work in order to pay for child care, this is an all but impossible choice.

Child care providers, the overwhelming majority – over 90 percent – of whom are women or people of color, have been operating on razor-thin margins if they have been able to stay open at all. Their wages are miniscule. They’ve grappled with changing health and safety procedures. And as the bills continue to stack up, many have had to close their facilities, whether temporarily or indefinitely.

Others that have stayed open have fewer children either because parents are concerned about exposing their kids to COVID-19 or because they have lost their incomes. These woes are further complicated by rising costs for child care providers as they scramble to provide PPE, to sanitize their classrooms, and to secure more space for social distancing. As a result, many of these small businesses and their owners are finding themselves on the verge of collapse. We need to save the child care industry. It is not just a matter of economics: it is a matter of priorities. It is a matter of right and wrong.

In my home state of Connecticut, we have more than 121,000 children ages 5 and under who need child care. But, without adequate support from the federal government, Connecticut could lose about 48 percent of the child care supply, more than 46,000 licensed child care slots. It was already the case that for every 1 child care slot, there were 2 children in need. Now, it is more than 4. This crisis has become a catastrophe.

Thankfully, our country is waking up to the reality that child care is essential. It is essential for women, for children, for parents, for small businesses, communities of color, and for our economy at large.

As Chair of this subcommittee, I have been working for quite some time to draw attention to the impending child care crisis. It is critical for Congress to do more to ensure programs like the Child Care Block Development Grant (CCBDG) receive the funding they need.

As you will recall, Congress appropriated $5.9 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCBDG) in 2021. In addition, $3.5 billion was included for the CCBDG in the CARES Act and an additional $10 billion in the December supplemental. But to be frank, this funding was not nearly enough.

Just as we provided grants in the CARES Act through the Payroll Support Program so airlines could pay their employees and keep flying throughout this pandemic. We support that effort. We must also do what is necessary to get our economy back on track by rescuing the child care industry.

We provided over 648 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program to get small business owners back on their feet. It was a good thing to do. We need to do what is necessary to stabilize the child care industry to allow parents and caregivers to get back to work.

One of our witnesses, Melissa Boteach, will discuss a little more in her testimony, child care is the work that makes work possible. So if it is true that the child care industry makes all other work possible, then why have we provided only $13.5 billion in supplemental funding to the CCDBG? If child care providers are essential workers, then why aren’t we treating child care work as essential?

$13.5 billion is not enough which is why it is crucial that we act, and we act quickly. At the end of the day, if we cannot make families feel that their kids are going to be safe and secure in their child care setting, then we cannot build a feasible path to a recovery.  

117th Congress