The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the critical value of early care and education (ECE) for our families and our economy. Local, state and federal governments have identified ECE for front line employees as an essential service alongside health, utilities and food delivery systems.
This has brought the chronic underfunding of what should be a public good into sharp relief. The small, women-owned businesses that predominate the ECE field will be hard pressed to survive the closures affecting communities across the nation. A recent study by the National Association for the Education of Young Children found that 30 percent of surveyed ECE providers would not survive a closure of more than two weeks without significant public investments, and 17 percent said they would not survive a closure of any length.
Congress has taken important steps to support the ECE sector by including $3.5 billion in emergency funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). This is an important down payment that will allow ECE providers to access critical cleaning and sanitation supplies, continue to pay teachers while programs are closed and provide child care services to essential workers throughout the crisis.
In addition, ECE providers may benefit from changes to Small Business Administration (SBA) programs, such as the expanded eligibility for Unemployment Insurance and over $350 billion in grants and loans that includes the Payroll Protection Program. While a good step, these programs are not a complete solution for ECE providers. In particular, the SBA programs may be difficult for providers to access as they are often unfamiliar with or unable to take on debt due to inexperience or thin cash flows.
Beyond the CARES Act, it is critical that Congress provide $50 billion in emergency funding to the sector to fully address the needs of ECE providers and America’s families. The economy does not function without our child care providers, and a large-scale infusion of federal funding is needed to support the industry. As lawmakers consider additional packages over the coming weeks and months, we have a unique opportunity to not simply stopgap the current crisis but to create a sustainable child care system for generations to come.
For more than 25 years, LIIF has provided grants and business capacity building services for ECE providers – the majority of whom are women, immigrants and people of color – to open or expand their businesses. Our work with center- and home-based providers in communities across the country has long made it clear that there are too few resources to meet the demand for high-quality child care. Even before the current pandemic, just one in six families eligible for child care assistance received it. This need will only be exacerbated as child care centers are shuttered in the wake of this crisis, threatening people’s ability to get back to work and help our economy recover.
LIIF and many of our CDFI partners are well-positioned to help federal, state and local governments quickly disperse ECE funding, connect providers with critical resources and provide loans where possible. The City of San Francisco is partnering with LIIF to provide funding to keep providers who need it the most afloat during this time. CDFIs will also be able to provide critical resources like bridge funding and start-up loans for providers eventually looking to reopen their centers.
It will be a long time before we understand COVID-19’s impact on our nation’s health and economy, but in any scenario we know that ECE will be an essential service and critical to ensuring our economic recovery. LIIF is committed to supporting ECE providers to survive the crisis and reopen strong programs. We will continue to advocate for public ECE resources at a scale that meets the immense need and increases provider resilience in the face of future disasters. Our families and economy depend on our shared ability to achieve these goals together.
For specific questions about LIIF’s ECE Program, contact Angie Garling, National ECE Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.