First Focus Campaign for Children applauds today’s House passage of two critical and complementary child care bills, but the good work will mean nothing unless House and Senate leaders ensure that the funds are included in the next COVID-19 relief package.

“Child care and the economy it supports face a make-or-break moment,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “Parents cannot go back to work, and the economy cannot resume proper functioning until families have safe, affordable, accessible child care. These bills take a giant step toward providing that. But the supports they offer must be delivered as soon as possible. Child care providers and the families who need them cannot wait any longer.”

The Child Care is Essential Act and the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act passed the House today with solid margins. Meant to work in tandem, the two pieces of legislation will bolster child care providers, hundreds of thousands of whom are in danger of closing permanently, and will make care more affordable and accessible to families. 

The Child Care is Essential Act would provide $50 billion and create a child care stabilization fund to help providers remain open or reopen safely. The funds will help pay personnel, obtain sanitizing and cleaning supplies, implement and train workers in new health and safety requirements, pay for mental health support for children and employees, and pay for other goods and services needed to maintain their businesses. 

The Child Care for Economic Recovery Act would provide enhanced tax provisions for families, providers, and employers, including increasing and making refundable the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which will now reach some low- and middle-income families for the first time. The bill would also increase mandatory child care funding to states, provide support for essential workers, and invest in child care infrastructure.

The child care industry has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, most of them held by women and women of color. Providers warn that they may shed 4.5 million child care slots — half of all slots — if funding does not come quickly. Two-out-of-five child care providers are in danger of closing completely and permanently. The industry is shrinking at the same time the need is expanding: Child care will be in even higher demand as schools pursue a combination of remote and in-person learning. 

Congress must provide the necessary funding for child care in the next COVID-19 package it votes on. Saving this industry cannot wait.