CLASP, the Center for Law and Social Policy, recently released an important report about the impact pandemic child care relief funds have made for families with young children and childcare providers in Louisiana, Michigan, New York and Virginia. This resource is timely as in September 2023, states began facing deadlines for spending their funds. These deadlines will hit again in September 2024.
The research is based on in-depth interviews with more than two dozen state child care administrators, advocates, providers and parents.
CLASP researchers found that the child care relief funds enabled states to achieve long-overdue improvements to better support families and providers that had previously been unfeasible. States have been able to expand child care assistance eligibility, waive copayments, increase provider wages, eliminate child care deserts and much more.
The report shows:
- New funding helped strengthen relationships as it required more coordination between providers, states, advocates and small business groups.
- It also allowed for workforce investments and entrepreneurial training to encourage the establishment of more child care businesses to contribute toward building a more stable future.
- Relief funds also enabled states to start making policy changes to better support families and providers by doing things like increasing payment rates and paying on enrollment instead of attendance.
- A final theme of the value of these funds is that they made space for innovation. For example, in New York, the funding allowed the creation of the Invest in New York: Child Care Deserts Grant. By supporting new child care providers to start programs and expand the capacity within existing programs in child care deserts, these grants have led to 283 new programs and created 7,000-8,000 new slots. The state also incentivized providers to offer or expand infant and toddler slots, care during non-traditional hours, and care for children with special needs.
However, as relief dollars start to expire, child care leaders in all four states expressed deep concerns that the progress they have made since 2020 will be reversed. These resources outline what’s at stake without a significant, permanent increase in federal funding.
“Providers, state child care agency leaders, and advocates in the four states all emphasized during our interviews that families and providers are not prepared to shift back to a system without these resources,” said the report authors. “Worse, some providers and families are not even aware that the expiration is around the corner. The child care field was headed toward total collapse and initial relief funding helped keep doors open, mitigate a further crisis, and provided families and providers with much-needed support.”