State Implementation of the Historic COVID Child Care Relief and Stabilization Funds
By Christine Johnson-Staub
The American Rescue Plan (ARP), which passed Congress on March 10 and will be signed by President Biden upon receipt, includes several critical supports for families related to nutrition, child poverty, health care, mental health, and more. It also includes desperately needed funding to stabilize and save the child care industry from collapse and ensure that families can access child care as the nation continues to battle and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. States can use these funds to help families with low incomes and essential workers afford child care, as well as help child care providers reopen, cover past pandemic-related expenses, and pay their operating costs.
While the impact of the pandemic has been devastating to the whole child care and early education field, as states prepare to disburse these funds quickly, effectively, and equitably, they must take stock to fully understand and consider their policy choices.
- How to design stabilization grants and use other available funds to meet the most urgent needs and shore up the field. In so doing, states should take this opportunity to build and reinforce a foundation for their child care systems to better meet the ongoing and future needs of children, families, and providers (e.g., equitable access, salaries and benefits, quality)—and weather any future pandemic-like storms.
- What existing strategic plans, needs assessments, and quantitative and qualitative data are already available to quickly target relief funds where they are most needed, where they will equitably reach the providers and communities that have been most harmed by the pandemic, and where they will advance existing policy goals.
- What plans and practices are in place to engage parents, providers, and other stakeholders to understand and respond to the most urgent needs of impacted communities and individuals. States should pay particular attention to those most likely to be left out—such as small or home based providers, rural providers, providers serving communities with low incomes, providers in communities of color or who are serving primarily people of color, providers serving immigrant communities, providers whose primary languages are not English, and others.
- What can and should be done differently, given current conditions and the much greater amount of funds available, and how this funding fits into existing state plans and priorities.
- Lessons learned from the implementation of previous relief funds, including how equitably funds have been distributed and where states need increased capacity or support to efficiently administer funds.