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The House Passes Two Pandemic Childcare Bills Which the Senate Will Likely Ignore

There can be no economic recovery without solving America's childcare problem.


It’s an understatement to say that the coronavirus pandemic has upended the world as we know it. But chief among the myriad struggles of pandemic life is the question of child care. With schools shifting to online learning and child care centers closing at a rapid rate, stressed out parents are struggling to both raise their kids and continue to work. A recent survey shows that 47% of people have lost their previous child care arrangements. And in March and April, over 300,000 childcare workers lost their jobs.

This untenable situation is, like so many other pandemic crises, a result of defunded and hollowed out social safety nets. But the issue of child care is dire: if there is no dependable child care, there is simply no way the economy can recover. In response, the House has passed two bills aimed at solving the child care crisis.

The first is the Child Care Is Essential Act, which gives grants to child care providers for training, sanitizing, and reopening costs. Currently, an estimated 40% of child care centers say that they will be forced to shut down without government assistance. This bill would prop up these struggling, desperately needed businesses.

The second bill, the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act, offers tax credits to make child care more affordable, improve current care centers, and help fund care for essential workers. Combined, the bills provide over $60 billion to the struggling child care industry to ensure that America’s kids have somewhere safe to go while their parents work.

Predictably, the votes landed on party lines, with Democrats voting in favor of the bills and most Republicans voting against them. A handful of Republicans crossed party lines to support both child care packages. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said of the bills, “Every single industry counts on child care. In order to save our economy, we need to save child care.”

Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) said of the bill, “We cannot assume that business can go on as usual if we don’t meet the needs of working parents, … [Child care] was an emergency before, it’s critical now,” Sanchez added, “If people think it’s not a problem, they’re not living the reality of American families where both parents have to work or there’s only one parent who has to support the household or they’re grandparents raising children because of drug overdoses.”

Republicans spouted platitudes about ensuring child care but claimed that the bills were too cumbersome, and that the application process would be too difficult and time-consuming for child care providers. Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) called it “a copy-paste of various Democratic child-care proposals, superficially edited to link to the pandemic,”.

The bills now go to the Senate where they will likely be shelved by Mitch McConnell. Child care should not be a partisan issue, but in Trump’s America everything is, including the pandemic.

(via The Hill, image: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Vera Bradley)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.