On May 31, 2023, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing focused on the stabilization funds for early childhood care centers that were initially disbursed as part of the American Rescue Plan following the COVID-19 pandemic. While Ranking Member Cassidy (R-LA) and other committee members expressed concerns that federal funding would lead to uniformity and a one-size-fits-all solution to the child care crisis, three witnesses rejected this theory and testified that increased federal funding is the only way to keep the child care industry afloat and pay workers a fair and living wage.
Ms. Elizabeth Groginsky, the Cabinet Secretary of New Mexico’s Early Childhood Education and Care Department provided an example of a state that used federal funds administered through the American Rescue Plan to increase family eligibility for the elimination of co-payments and build their workforce through offering raises, bonuses, and additional opportunities for education to child care workers. Ms. Groginsky emphasized that there are still numerous child care options.
Ms. Cheryl Morman, a family child care provider and the President of the Virginia Alliance for Family Child Care Associations, operates a small, home based child care center that would have been forced to close if not for the relief funds. Ms. Morman values and teaches religion in her center and testifies that this was not diminished by the influx of federal funding. She currently has vacancies in her center which she cannot fill because of low wages. With sustained federal assistance, Ms. Morman would be able to serve more children and maintain her center’s individuality and values.
Ms. Carrie Lukas, President of the Independent Women’s Forum, expressed a fear that federal funding will increase regulations and expose child care centers to serving the government rather than families. Some members of the committee agreed with her, while others, along with some of the witnesses, explained that family choice would remain, and that federal funding would be flexible to allow centers to maintain their individuality. All members of this committee agree that the child care system cannot continue as it is now; neither educators nor families are able to absorb the cost of paying workers a living wage along with rising administrative costs.
By Leah Sarfity, Policy Intern