Child Care is Essential Care-a-Van

The future is bleak for many child care centers and family homes throughout Washington State, as they struggle to continue their programs and operate in the new COVID-19 world. That’s why a long line of brightly decorated cars snaked throughout the streets of downtown Olympia Monday morning. Horns honking and shouts of support echoed down the streets, as child care providers and supporters came to show the need for fast and comprehensive support for child care programs.

“The reason we are here is that without immediate and substantial investment in early learning, 20-50% of all Washington State child care programs and businesses will close for good,” said Rixa Evershed, Education Director of Nature Nurtures Farm over a megaphone prior to the start of the caravan. “This caravan is advocating that child care funding must be protected and expanded as an essential service for our economy. We know that child care will need to remain open in order for the economy to recover.”

Child care providers have been put in a no-win situation over these last few weeks of the pandemic. Many have continued serving the children and families that are on the frontlines of this pandemic. But they had to do so at significant costs. Guidelines from the State require a significant reduction in class size for safety measures, resulting in thousands of dollars of lost revenue. This comes at a time when even prior to the pandemic, child care centers and family homes were operating on razor thin margins, and now with this hit to their bottom-line, many will not survive as a business. 

Child care is a foundational piece in our economy. Without it, the economic system will delay recovery and the disparities between the rich and the poor widens. We know when child care is unavailable, women are the most likely to leave the workforce and stay at home. This crisis amplifies the impact on women and people living on the margin, and in turn reducing their opportunity to participate in the workforce.

That’s why the time for meaningful support is now! Specially:

  • No cuts to child care! Child care funding must be protected and expanded as an essential service for a thriving economy.
  • Don’t kick families off child care subsidies. Emergency unemployment benefits should not count toward calculating financial eligibility for child care subsidies.
  • Release the full CARES Act funding: Washington State has received $58 million in federal CARES Act funding specifically for child care, but has only released $29 million so far in grants to child care providers. WE need the other $29 million released immediately!
  • Grants available to all child care programs: CARES Act child care grants were only made available to programs that are still open. Programs which closed in repose to the pandemic should be eligible to receive CARES Act funding to help them re-open and preserve child care slots. 

We must make a commitment to support child care on all levels; from employers, and all levels of government to ensure a smooth transition to opening our economy and providing equitable education to our next generation of workers. Without access to reliable, quality child care, both employees and employers suffer. Parents will leave the workforce due to child care challenges, thus making it harder for recovery to happen in our state.

It’s time to recognize child care as a keystone piece of our economy. We call on business leaders, legislators, and city council members to step-up and make the investment. Without access to child care, parents will leave the workforce due to child care challenges, thus making it harder for recovery to happen in our state.

Thank you to Nature Nurtures Farm School for leading the organization of the Child Care is Essential Care-a-Van, and to the other co-sponsors who joined Child Care Action Council including SEIU 925, Economic Opportunity Institute, Park View Early Learning Center,  and Community Day Center for Children.