Patty Murray

05/31/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/31/2023 14:12

Senator Murray Warns of Coming Child Care Funding Cliff, Need for Action to Prevent Child Care Crisis from Worsening Further

Critical federal funding Senator Murray led the fight to secure-which saved the child care sector from collapse-is set to expire this fall, threatening to make a bad situation worse for families if Congress doesn't take action to address the child care crisis

***WATCH: Senator Murray discusses implications of funding cliff at HELP hearing***

Washington, D.C. - Today, at a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hearing on the child care crisis, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member and former chair of the committee, warned of how-unless action is taken-our nation's child care crisis could grow more severe this fall with the expiration of pandemic-era child care funding she fought to secure, which has helped saved the sector from collapse.

When the pandemic pushed the already-fragile child care sector to the brink, Senator Murray fought to provide a historic federal investment in the nation's child care system to keep it afloat and keep serving families in need of child care. The historic child care stabilization funding she secured in the American Rescue Plan helped save the child care sector from collapse-keeping 220,000 providers' doors open and saving 10 million child care slots for children nationwide. But that funding is set to expire on September 30, threatening to make child care even less accessible and affordable. On Tuesday, Senator Murray released a new report with HELP Committee Chair Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) detailing how the funding has stabilized the sector and what's at risk when it expires.

"We have a child care crisis-and we actually had a child care crisis before COVID. But it was a silent crisis, because parents did not talk about it-because they were worried when they went to get a job that if they said 'I don't know what I'm going to do with my kids,' they wouldn't get that job. But the pandemic actually opened up this conversation," said Senator Murray. "I will tell you everywhere I go in my state, people talk about the fact that they do want to go get that job, but they cannot because they're 200th on a waiting list. Or they say to me, 'there's a slot open but I can't afford it. It's half my salary.' Or: 'I will have to work part time. Why am I working part time? This doesn't make any sense.'"

Senator Murray discussed how the critical investments she fought for in the American Rescue Plan helped stabilize the child care sector but stressed that with the funding set to expire soon, it's critical Congress sees what's at stake clearly and addresses the crisis.

"We have a child care crisis, and we need to deal with it as a country. And I will tell you: I am concerned that the stabilization funds that end [soon] are going to make it even worse, and that's a reality we have to face."

Senator Murray went on to underscore at the hearing that taking action to address the child care crisis with robust federal funding expands parents and families' options, so that they can find the child care options that work best for them-not the other way around. Senator Murray made clear that her Child Care for Working Families Act supports all kinds of child care options-whether they're faith-based, home-based, preschool programs, or child care centers.

"I want to put that to rest right now," said Senator Murray. "We keep hearing: 'one size fits all.' 'Government-run.' That's now how the system works. It's never gonna work that way."

Senator Murray also made clear that we need to be focused on actually addressing the child care crisis with serious legislative proposals, like her Child Care for Working Families Act-not trying to pretend the crisis is not real or seeking to score political cheap points, as several Republicans did at Wednesday's hearing.

"To boil it down to a discussion about curriculum or masks is ludicrous," Murray said.

During the pandemic, child care providers were the workforce behind the workforce-providing child care services for nurses, doctors, first responders, and so many other frontline workers. But child care programs consistently had to do more with less. Providers faced increased costs associated with keeping children and workers safe and healthy, while experiencing severe drops in revenue due to fewer families paying for child care during the pandemic. The nation stood to lose an estimated 4.5 million child care slots, and in June 2020, fewer than 1 in 5 child care programs surveyed said that they expected their program could survive for longer than a year without significant financial help.

Congress provided over $52 billion in vital support to help stabilize the child care sector and help working families meet their child care needs during the pandemic through funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and funding for Child Care Stabilization grants. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Child Care Stabilization funds kept over 220,000 child care providers across the country afloat, sustaining child care for up to 10 million children. One third of child care providers who received a stabilization grant said their child care program would have closed permanently without the grants. States have used supplemental CCDBG funding to make child care more affordable for working families, to increase wages and support for child care workers, and to improve their child care subsidy systems.

Over $37 billion in funding for the child care sector runs out on September 30, 2023, which will leave workers, child care businesses, and working families with young children at risk without more child care funding to meet their ongoing needs, with states such as California, Florida, and Texas losing billions in funding. These historic investments in the chronically-starved child care sector provided a glimpse of what is possible with significant federal funding for child care-and must be maintained.

Senator Murray and Senator Sanders' report on the coming funding cliff details how, once funding expires:

  • 1 in 5 child care programs say they will have to serve fewer children.
  • 4 in 10 child care programs say they will be forced to raise tuition for working parents.
  • 3 in 10 child care programs say they will be forced to cut wages or be unable to sustain any previous wage increases. This will be devastating for a sector that is already short 54,000 workers.

Senator Murray, a former preschool teacher, has led the fight to tackle the child care crisis in the Senate-using every tool at her disposal to make progress for families. Last month, she reintroduced her Child Care for Working Families Act, comprehensive legislation to tackle the child care crisis and ensure families across America can find and afford the high-quality child care they need. The bill would ensure families can afford the child care they need-expanding access to more high-quality options, stabilizing the child care sector, and helping ensure child care workers taking care of our nation's kids are paid livable wages. It would also dramatically expand access to pre-K and support full-day, full-year Head Start programs and increased wages for Head Start workers. The typical family in America will pay no more than $10 a day for child care-with many families paying nothing at all-and no eligible family will pay more than 7% of their income on child care under Senator Murray's bill.

Learn more about Senator Murray's Child Care for Working Families Act HERE.

Read Senator Murray and Senator Sanders' report on the coming funding cliff HERE.