Department of Early Education and Care Commissioner Amy Kershaw at the Cape Cod YMCA, celebrating their new Early Education Center, which was supported by a $1 million state grant. Photo Source: EEC’s X (formerly Twitter) page

A message from Strategies for Children

You may have seen the headlines saying that early education and care programs across the country are facing a federal funding cliff because the $24 billion Child Care Stabilization Program, which was passed through the American Rescue Plan of 2021, expired on Saturday, September 30, 2023.

The expected impact is substantial child care closures and increased prices for families. 

However, thanks to Governor Healey, Senate President Spilka, Speaker Mariano, and members of the Massachusetts Legislature, this is not the story in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts continues to support more than 7,000 early education and care programs across the Commonwealth with crucial direct-to-provider funding in the form of operations grants. These funds, distributed as Commonwealth Cares for Children (“C3”) grants, have been highly effective. Data from more than 6,806 grant recipients demonstrate the foundational role that operations grants have played — and will continue to play — in sustaining our early education and care sector.

The historic investments mad in the FY24 state budget, including $475 million in state dollars to continue the C3 operational grants, replaced the expired federal relief dollars and significantly increased our state funding for early education and care programs. See our summary of state budget highlights here.

That’s why we are not facing a funding cliff this year.

However, thanks to the Department of Early Education and Care’s (EEC) thoughtful data collection, we have an idea of just how damaging the funding cliff would have been if the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor Healey hadn’t stepped up:

· 982 programs report they would close if C3 funds were no longer available

· 18% of family child care and 8% of center-based programs report they would close

· We’d lose 6,500 child care financial assistance seats and 18,000 licensed seats if these programs close

On Tuesday, October 10, 2023, at 2 p.m., there will be a virtual panel discussion hosted by Neighborhood Villages and Strategies for Children about C3 operational grants. Join us by registering here! We will share how evidence from the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grant program demonstrates that direct-to-provider operations grants have preserved family access to care, especially in lower-income communities; contributed to increased educator wages; stabilized tuition fees; and maintained affordability.

While we are grateful not be in the dire situation that many states are facing right now, we also know we have to push forward with the plan outlined in the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission report, released in March 2022, that calls for establishing a sustainable early education and care system in the Commonwealth.

It’s important to recognize the devastating impact the COVID pandemic had on the already fragile early education and care system in Massachusetts while acknowledging that this system was in decline long before 2020: programs were closing and leaving families without access to the care they need, and the staffing crisis we face today was beginning to emerge.

This is a national problem that requires comprehensive and multi-faceted solutions. We know that these solutions will call for partnership and a combination of state and federal dollars. We are grateful to Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark and other lawmakers who have introduced legislation and are working to restore the expired Child Care Stabilization Act federal funding stream.

To learn more about the landscape in other states, check out the State Session Round Up: Summer 2023 from Child Care Aware.