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DeLauro says economy will come to a crawl if federal child care funding expires

Valerie Irizarry with Save the Children Action Network joined lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday to call on Congress to renew funding for the child care industry.
Save the Children Action Network
Valerie Irizarry with Save the Children Action Network joined lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday to call on Congress to renew funding for the child care industry.

For Valerie Irizarry, child care continues to be inaccessible raising four children — and for most U.S families — because of the cost to enroll and the lack of spots for children.

“While searching for child care, I discovered that the cost, for just a few hours of care for three of my four kids, would be equal to the salary that I would make in a week,” said Irizarry, who advocates with Save the Children Action Network for Congress to support the child care industry post-pandemic.

“It made more sense for me to just stay at home then go to work,” she added.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, wants to extend the Child Care Stabilization Act along with other Democrats from the House and Senate.

The measure will extend federal child care stabilization funding, which is set to expire at the end of the month.

“Our economy, it's been said over and over again that it's the key, will cease to function if we do not have a strong child care industry,” DeLauro said.

During the pandemic, the Democratic majority in Congress provided $24 billion in child care funding, which kept 220,000 providers afloat and saved child care slots for up to 10 million kids nationwide.

However, the funding will end on Sept. 30 of this year. Democrats joined advocates on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to warn of dire consequences for both families and the nation's economy.

“If we don’t allow them to have the wherewithal to have child care then we are not going to provide them with their opportunity to work, to be competitive, to get that economic security for themselves and their parents,” DeLauro said.

The proposal by the House Democratic minority would provide an additional $16 billion over the next five years. The effort has support in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“This funding has been essential in helping them to retain workers and help keep their businesses afloat. Unfortunately, the child care stabilization grant fund is set to expire at the end of September,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) during a separate press conference Wednesday.

Gillibrand said the funding is especially important since nearly two-thirds of New York’s children live in so-called “child care deserts” — where there are more than 50 children under age 5 and few to no child care providers.

She estimates 250,000 children in New York could lose care.

Democrats argue the bill would ensure child care providers continue to receive a stable flow of funding to help providers deliver affordable and high-quality services to working families across the U.S.

However, they face an uphill battle in Congress with no backing by Republicans. “Republicans don’t care about America’s children,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) said. “They allow our children to fall into poverty and they’re okay with our children not having access to adequate child care.”

The funds will also be critical to small business child care providers that are struggling to keep their workers.

“Allowing these child care investments to expire will disrupt the entire small business community, disproportionately impacting under-resourced and rural small businesses,” said John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority.

Over the past few years, DeLauro said the House of Representatives has worked across the aisle to raise funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant by 52% and will continue to do so, despite opposition from the GOP.

“We know that if child care is accessible and it’s affordable, parents and our children survive,” DeLauro said.

Sara McGiff is a news intern at WSHU for the fall of 2023.