American Rescue Plan Rescuing Child Care, Too!
Photo: Paul Arrington (2005), Creative Commons license 2.0

As we've enjoyed reminding you all week, the big COVID relief package passed by Congress yesterday has a heck of a lot of good stuff in it, what with all the poverty-reducing and the help with healthcare. Today, let's look at yet another Big Fucking Deal in the bill, the provisions aimed at rescuing the nation's child care providers and the parents who need them. The recession has forced a lot of daycares out of business, while those still in business have, unlike schools, stayed open during the pandemic, because you really can't look after toddlers on Zoom.

And before some idiot like Kevin McCarthy starts nattering on about how helping child care providers is just one more item on the Left's wish list, let's point out that the first two COVID relief bills included child care funding too, because you can't keep essential workers doing their essential work, or get everyone else back to work as it becomes safe, if they don't have someone looking after the kids. That's why the American Rescue Plan includes roughly $39 billion in help with child care, plus other stuff aimed at making sure parents can get back to work without worrying about their hellspawn.

The package provides $15 billion in emergency funding for the "Child Care and Development Block Grant" program, to ensure that essential workers have child care, plus a $24 billion "child care stabilization fund" to cover grants to child care providers. The grants can be used for a variety of purposes, like covering payroll, paying facility rent/mortgage, or buying cleaning supplies and protective equipment like masks.

The grants do come with some strings; a House Education and Labor Committee fact sheet explains that providers who get the grants "must provide financial relief for families, to the extent possible, and prioritize such relief for families struggling to cover tuition."

In addition to the direct help to child care, the bill also includes another billion dollars for Head Start, as well as funding for programs that help very young children with disabilities.

The need is pretty dramatic, as the First Five Years Fund, a bipartisan advocacy group for child care and early childhood education, explains:

[The] child care industry has lost approximately 171,000 jobs between February 2020 and December 2020 that have not been recovered, and surveys show that one in four child care centers and one in three family child care homes believe they will have to close permanently if no additional support comes forward. 46% of parents say their current child care situation isn't sustainable in the long-term.

Beyond that, the National Association for the Education of Young Children found in a December survey that 42 percent of child care providers had put supplies and other expenses on their personal credit cards, and 39 percent had dipped into their own savings. The survey also noted that nearly half of child care workers make so little that their families must access public assistance to get by.

That latter situation will certainly be helped by the COVID relief bill, but it's also compelling evidence in favor of Joe Biden's $775 billion proposal to get the economy going again with big new investments in care for kids and for older adults, too; part of that "21st Century Caregiving and Education Workforce" plan would make sure care providers get paid at a level equal to that of public school teachers, with the right to join unions, too.

On top of the stuff aimed at providers, the relief bill Biden is set to sign tomorrow also helps out parents. We've already discussed the per-child allowance in the plan, which should reduce child poverty by half. But the bill also increases the child and dependent care tax credit to make getting care more affordable. CNET explains the credit, for children under 13, will provide

a total of up to $4,000 for one child, or $8,000 for two or more children. The credit would be refundable, and available to families making less than $125,000 per year. Those making between $125,000 and $400,000 would receive a partial credit.

That's a heck of a big change from prior tax years; the credit used to begin phasing out at just $15,000 of income for a single taxpayer.

As with many of the other benefits in the relief bill, many of these changes will end within the next two years, but the expanded child and dependent care credit sure sounds like one of those things people will want Congress to make permanent, even after the pandemic is under control.

And won't keeping that expanded access to child care (and healthcare) make a fine campaign issue in advance of the 2022 midterms?

Here, have all our What's In the Rescue Plan? posts

It's really a big heckin' deal, isn't it?

[First Five Years Fund / CNBC / CNET / Photo: Paul Arrington, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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