Above Photo: Aaron Burden on Unsplash.
As Congress delivers nearly a trillion dollars for military spending through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in fiscal year 2023, one of the country’s most vulnerable sectors is in the midst of financial turmoil, with lingering effects across the country’s workforce.
Within the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed in March 2021, a mere $39 billion was allocated towards child care relief funding, an amount proven to not be enough with funds already drying up.
The shortage of money sets up a house-of-cards style effect on child care and the workforce as a whole. With the onset of the funds, “teachers at the [child care] center have gotten a more than 40% pay bump over the past two years, from $14 an hour before the pandemic to $20 an hour now,” reports Bloomberg. Without the money, the pay for child care providers would have to be rolled back to pre-pandemic levels, running the risk of losing teachers to higher paying jobs at places like Target and Amazon.
If those raises are kept, child care providers would have to raise tuition, which in turn would force some parents to take their children out of the service.
Although funding has not completely evaporated, some of those decisions have already been made throughout the country with 84,400 employees missing from the child care workforce industry, an 8% drop from pre-pandemic levels.
According to the Bloomberg report, the workforce already had a shortage before the pandemic but now, “the economics of providing care without those funds simply don’t work, laying bare cracks that already existed well before the pandemic threw the industry into crisis.”
The report also mentions that attracting and retaining workers in the industry was already tough because of low pay, lack of benefits and the availability of higher paying jobs.
“[W]ith the labor market at its tightest in decades, many providers can’t compete with the $18 to $20 an hour that companies such as McDonald’s Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. offer in some states,” the report states.
The residual effects on individual families is demonstrated through the lower number of Americans in the labor force. The Bloomberg report shares a story of a family struggling to maintain a balance between child care and work. “The one thing holding them back is a lack of child care options for their 18-month-old son. [Jennifer] Muschinske put her son on waitlists at three day-care centers in Boston in April 2021, when she was six months pregnant. He still hasn’t been offered a place at any of them,” the report said.
This news comes on top of the GOP’s refusal to negotiate a deal including an expansion of child tax credit, “a move that would dramatically reduce child poverty,” according to a HuffPost report.
“The 2021 program, which expanded the existing CTC to include the poorest families and sent out payments of up to $3,600 per child in monthly increments, spurred a historic drop in the obscenely high U.S. child poverty rate before it expired at the end of last year, thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and the GOP’s opposition to extending the benefit,” reports Common Dreams.