What every parent or caregiver with kids in childcare needs to know

What to know about childcare assistance

Childcare is essential for families across the United States. Millions of children attend childcare every day, and millions of parents and caregivers rely on it. While advocates and many Americans agree that care should be accessible and affordable to all who need it, there’s a fast-approaching deadline that could put that at risk.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, childcare providers were under enormous strain. The federal government responded with a nearly $24 billion investment to support providers. This investment enabled them to pay workers, buy cleaning supplies, pay mortgages and respond to rising food costs. But those additional investments are ending on September 30.

According to recent research, this so-called “childcare cliff” could mean 70,000 childcare programs close, and approximately 3.2 million children lose their care spots. The country could lose 232,000 childcare jobs. In short, a collapse of a system that families across the country rely on daily.

READ MORE: How to decide on daycare, nursery school or preschool

This near-term cliff is consistent with longer-term lack of investment. More than half of the U.S. population lives in a childcare desert. Working families with the lowest wages spend up to one-third of their income on childcare, a significantly higher percentage than families at other income levels. The median wage for a childcare worker is less than $12 an hour, consigning many to poverty and food insecurity. Even before the pandemic, the childcare system was falling short, despite the best efforts of many workers, providers and advocates.

But childcare has a huge positive impact. Childcare can set children up for success: improved physical, mental, social and emotional health and wellbeing as well as stronger academic performance. It can also ensure stability for families. Few supports have such a profound impact on families’ ability to thrive.

If you are a parent or guardian with a child in a care setting, talk to your provider. Ask them if they are aware of the September 30 deadline, and how they think it might impact them as a provider or participating families.

If you want to advocate for change, visit ChildCareForEveryFamily.org to see how you can get involved. They’re a network convening families, organizations and providers locally, in states and nationally, to develop shared strategies to fundamentally transform childcare.

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) iStock / FatCamera

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