Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children


As the country struggles to cope with the coronavirus, a group of Massachusetts elected officials and their spouses have written a powerful Boston Globe op-ed that calls on Congress to support the child care industry with a bailout.

“COVID-19 has (rightfully) forced the closure of child care centers across Massachusetts. In doing so, it has forced a profound reckoning about the state of the American child care system,” the op-ed says.

The closures, as we’ve blogged, have sown fears and doubts and hard questions that do not yet have answers. And on Wednesday, Governor Baker extended school and non-emergency child care closures to May 4, 2020.

However, the op-ed says:

“One thing is clear: We can no longer afford to approach child care as an economic accessory. We must approach it as the oxygen on which every facet of our recovery will depend.”

The op-ed’s authors are Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and her husband Bruce Mann, a Harvard Law School professor; Representative Joe Kennedy III and his wife Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, the co-founder of Neighborhood Villages; Representative Katherine Clark; and Representative Ayanna Pressley and her husband Conan Harris, the principal of Conan Harris & Associates LLC Consultant Firm.

Exploring the bigger picture, the op-ed adds:

“The child care sector — long overlooked and long deprived of adequate public investment — is foundational to today’s economy. Nearly 80 percent of parents with young children are in the workforce. To borrow a well-loved Massachusetts tagline, our economy runs on child care.

This state of emergency has crystallized that with dramatic effect, as parents in the medical sector are called to the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic; as low-wage parents weigh the devastating choice between their paycheck and their family’s exposure to a dangerous virus, as small business parents burn the midnight oil to stay afloat, and as every working parent fights to balance their family’s physical and economic livelihoods.”

“Well before COVID-19, the American child care sector was in a fragile state. Collective failure to recognize the critical importance of child care to national economic health and household economic stability has starved the sector of the public funds it needs; the result is a child care market in which all stakeholders, both providers and families, find themselves in precarious positions, operating on margins that just barely keep them afloat.”

“Now, COVID-19 is pushing this already tenuous market to the brink of collapse.

“An infusion of emergency funds into the nation’s child care sector is urgently needed. At a time of uncertain employment and jeopardized household income, families cannot afford to pay for care they are not receiving. Providers, however, cannot afford to waive tuition fees if they want to continue to pay their staff and keep their businesses solvent. Child care centers across the country report that, if they are not made whole from uncollected parent fees, they will be forced to lay off staff or cease to operate completely. And financial insolvency is not months away; centers may be unable to survive more than two to three weeks.”

The op-ed calls on Congress to invest billions of dollar in a child care bailout, pointing out that “current safety nets” for small businesses are insufficient to help child care providers, especially since “loss of income can mean loss of housing” for family providers who, if they did loss their housing, would be unable to reopen their businesses.

As of yesterday afternoon, the federal coronavirus budget deal includes an additional $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant to support child care for health care workers, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other essential employees. There is also funding for other family programs.

But this is only a first step that addresses emergencies. Child care needs an investment that will stabilize it and keep it whole over time.

The time to act? Immediately, the op-ed says.

So please join the authors by reaching out to your national representatives, sharing your coronavirus concerns, and asking for a meaningful and immediate investment in child care that will support children, families and the economy.