Sustain Federal Economic Relief to Preserve the Child Care Sector
Finding silver linings in times as challenging as these can be a struggle. But they’re there. And they’re as unmistakable as they are powerful.
As the President & CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, I’ve had an up-close view of how the COVID-19 pandemic is deeply affecting companies in our area across industry sectors, but particularly small businesses. In some cases, that’s meant heartwarming demonstrations of resiliency and community cohesion. In others, sadly, it’s meant permanent closure.
But one common thread connecting the business community and Miami as a whole is the importance of meeting the needs of our workers. And no need is more fundamental than the need for child care.
High-quality child care enables working parents to focus on their careers during the day, secure in the knowledge that the most important part of their lives—their children—are safe, healthy, and learning.
Yet, one of the impacts of the COVID-19 emergency is that child care providers face an unprecedented threat. Most providers are themselves small businesses, and, with so many places of business closed, the parents who might otherwise need care are at home with their children.
Still, those on the front lines fighting this pandemic, including healthcare workers and first responders, as well as other types of essential workers who continue to leave their homes every day, like grocery store employees, pharmacists, and delivery and shipping personnel, still have a pressing need for this service. That need comes at a time when child care providers, like all small businesses, are struggling financially.
Locally, many Early Learning Coalitions and Children’s Services Councils, including the Children’s Trust in Miami, are making special funding available to help keep centers open and extend services to those fighting the virus on the front lines – but it’s just not enough.
That’s why it’s so important for Congress to continue to provide economic relief to child care providers today, so that the child care providers will be open and ready to care for our children when Americans go back to work. And, once the pandemic is behind us, we can then aim to increase access to high-quality child care further, which will not only help bolster our current-day workforce, but which can lead to better outcomes for the next generation of Americans as they grow.
This matters to me as a chamber executive, as someone who cares deeply about Miami’s small businesses, and as a member of the business-leader group ReadyNation. As it has on other issues that impact the young people who will become our future workforce, ReadyNation has harnessed the voices of business leaders across the country to make the case for expanding access to affordable, high-quality child care. As the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped our nation, those voices are as important as ever.
Thankfully, ReadyNation members have also shared with Congress that child care providers are themselves small businesses, as well as sole proprietorships, non-profits, and self-employed. No matter the form the providers take, ReadyNation members have made clear the need to be able to access economic relief, due to the intertwined nature of the health of the child care sectors with the economy in general.
In fact, ReadyNation’s national child care report last year highlighted that connection, showing that the infant-and-toddler child care crisis costs the United States economy a stunning $57 billion every year because of lower productivity, lost tax revenue, and reduced wages.
Given the far-reached effects I just described, ReadyNation members, myself included, are grateful to Congress for addressing the unique needs of child care providers in the CARES Act relief package.
However, sustaining this economic relief is necessary if our country is to avoid sliding backwards in terms of child care availability once this crisis subsides. As I mentioned, the shortage of high-quality, affordable child care is already a serious problem, and the pandemic presents a danger that could cause us to regress even further.
Measures like the Paycheck Protection Act (PPP) will help to allow child care providers to sustain operations during this healthcare emergency.
Congress should take several specific steps to help make sure the child care sector remains healthy during the COVID-19 emergency. These steps include providing additional funding for the PPP, so that all child care providers can access this economic relief and endure this health emergency. Lawmakers should also require Small Business Administration (SBA) resource partners to use their additional funding allocation to help child care providers complete SBA applications.
In addition, Congress should urge small business lenders to work with child care providers that do not have business banking accounts or payroll services, so that these providers may quickly and accurately complete their PPP applications. Finally, Congress should ask the SBA to enroll more lenders to accommodate rural child care providers, which will facilitate access to economic relief in all communities.
These measures will help protect an essential sector of the economy that touches nearly every other sector. With this assistance in place, I look forward to a day soon when families in South Florida and beyond are able to return to normalcy, take pride in their work, and help rebuild our communities’ economic strength – all while their children are cared for in nurturing, high-quality environments that can help set them up for future success.