At the end of this month, states are expected to exhaust the remaining $24 billion in additional federal funding for child care, which was implemented as part of the overall pandemic relief efforts. This funding has played a crucial role in advancing multiple worthwhile goals and its expiration threatens many sectors.
Child care is essential for keeping the economy running. The economy and our survival as a species rely on people continuing to have children, but there has been a noticeable decline in U.S. births. Additionally, for parents to enter and remain in the workforce, they need access to affordable and available child care. Currently, the unavailability and high cost of child care either discourage people from having children, which is detrimental to both individuals and the economy, or force parents to leave the workforce to take care of their children, which is also harmful to both.
While there is concern about young people’s disinterest in having kids, research shows that the desire to have children hasn’t necessarily decreased in recent decades. The logistical and financial challenges associated with child care have become increasingly difficult to overcome. Child care costs have risen significantly, almost double the inflation rate over the past year.
The expiration of federal funding exacerbates an already challenging landscape. According to a report by The Century Foundation, the closure of 70,000 child care programs and the loss of 3.2 million child care spots are expected nationwide. The closure of these centers will lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and eliminate the only feasible way for millions of parents to participate in the workforce. In total, families are estimated to lose $9 billion in earnings per year.
Public funding for child care is not a handout but an investment with significant returns. Numerous studies have shown that it stimulates economic activity, saves costs, and produces positive outcomes. The disagreement lies in determining the exact return on investment.
Despite the clear benefits, we are choosing to eliminate this funding as the post-pandemic economy begins to cool. This decision lacks rational economic reasons and stems from political motives. Some members of the GOP view pushing women out of the workforce as a positive outcome, while others prioritize cutting social programs regardless of their merit. However, if the Republican Party claims to support families, they should be held accountable for their anti-family stance.