Sustainable, Mandatory Investments are Critical to an Equitable Child Care System
By Alyssa Fortner
Policymakers must make mandatory, sustainable child care funding an essential component of the ongoing budget reconciliation negotiations. Decades of underinvestment have resulted in a fragile child care system rife with inequities, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made this clearer than ever. This system has relied primarily on providers—largely women of color and immigrant women—earning poverty-level wages and the ability of families to pay for it. As we move from relief to recovery, lawmakers must prioritize investing in a child care system that is affordable, equitable, and sustainable. And mandatory child care dollars are crucial in building this system.
Mandatory funding, guaranteed through law, is distributed through the Child Care Entitlement to States, which Congress created in 1996. Unless policymakers change the law, this funding does not change. Unlike discretionary funding that depends on annual approval by Congress, mandatory funding allows for states to make long-term decisions on child care investments. Mandatory funding is especially crucial for recurring costs such as:
- Boosting and maintaining salaries and benefits for providers
- Improving the stability and quality of child care programs
- Increasing the supply of child care
While the historic American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provided essential relief funding, we need additional investment to support recovery efforts and the establishment of an equitable and sustainable child care system. To make this a reality, the Biden Administration and Members of Congress must prioritize increased mandatory funding in the passage of a recovery bill in the coming months.