Washington — The U.S. House of Representative approved on Wednesday a measure co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, to create a $50 billion child care stabilization fund that would include $1.4 billion for Michigan.
The measure, known as the Child Care is Essential Act, would boost funding for child care centers that backers are at risk of closing without federal assistance after months of reduced enrollment due to the coronavirus pandemic. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Ct.,was approved in an 249-163 vote. It now goes to the Republican-led U.S. Senate, where is expected to face long odds for passage.
Supporters of the measure say child care is critical to reviving the nation’s economy because it will be difficult for parents of young children to return to work without the assurance of adequate child care.
“We cannot talk about reopening our economy without having a conversation about how families will care for their children,” Stevens said in a statement. “Child care providers in Michigan and across the country are facing serious challenges, with many providers shut down or operating well under capacity for the duration of the pandemic… We need these businesses to stay afloat, both to provide safe and affordable child care for frontline workers right now and to ensure that child care services will be available to families as our economy reopens.”
Stevens’ office said the measure requires child care centers to keep workers on payrolls at the same compensation level as they had before the pandemic as a condition of receiving stabilization grant funds. The measure would also require providers to relieve families of some co-payments or tuition. Providers would be required to meet health and safety guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local authorities.
Mark Bierley, CEO of Learning Care Group, a daycare center in Novi, thanked Stevens and her colleagues for passing legislation to aid the child care sector, saying in a statement: “Families need assurance that as they return to work, high-quality child care centers are available to them.
“During the pandemic, our sector has seen an unprecedented number of child care centers closing their doors,” Bierley said. “This is concerning as child care remains the backbone of our nation’s economy and is critical for parents to remain in the workforce.”
Stevens’ office said Michigan stands to lose out on 121,264 licensed child care slots, approximately 41% of the state’s child care supply, without federal support. She said that even before the coronavirus pandemic, Michigan had 2.33 children per child care slot, so the state did not enough resources to provide adequate care to all preschool-aged children. The number has gone up to 3.95 children per child care slot since the pandemic began.
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