Walorski: Access to Child Care for Working Families Is Key to Rebuilding Economy

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Walorski: Access to Child Care for Working Families Is Key to Rebuilding Economy

Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Child Care and the Coronavirus Pandemic

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), the top Republican on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support, at a hearing Tuesday emphasized the importance of access to affordable, high-quality child care for working families as America’s economy safely reopens.

“Millions of Americans want to return to work, and in order to do so they must be able to rely on child care providers to keep their children safe and healthy throughout the work day,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “With states safely reopening, child care providers now face many new challenges. These include restrictions on group and class sizes, social distancing guidelines, and other health and safety protocols that are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These new requirements and ongoing concerns the pandemic presents are making it hard for providers to recover and maintain a thriving business. I hope we can work together to find ways to support and strengthen child care for working families.”

Secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Jennifer Sullivan, M.D., M.P.H., testified at the subcommittee hearing on child care and the coronavirus pandemic.

“High quality, affordable childcare is a key component of achieving well-being for our kids and opportunity for their parents, and that is even more true during our comprehensive response to COVID-19,” Dr. Sullivan said. “Our nation’s long-term well-being depends on a child care infrastructure that works for every family. This committee has a unique opportunity to help reset the future of child care by providing funding to states to take what they have learned through this pandemic to build a more robust child care infrastructure that can stand future disasters and create a workforce that supports large scale economic growth.”

Video of Walorski’s opening statement at the subcommittee hearing is available here, and her remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

Video of Walorski introducing FSSA Secretary Dr. Sullivan is available here.

Video of Walorski questioning Dr. Sullivan is available here.

“Thank you, Chairman Davis.

“I appreciate you holding this hearing today on child care and the coronavirus crisis. I share your interest in this topic and believe child care is key to making America’s recovery stronger.

“I want to thank all the witnesses for taking the time to join us.

“Millions of Americans want to return to work, and in order to do so they must be able to rely on child care providers to keep their children safe and healthy throughout the work day.  Even before this crisis, we knew there were challenges to ensuring Americans had access to affordable, high-quality child care.

“The pandemic has only exacerbated those concerns, with the child care industry hit hard by this crisis. Many providers – which largely operate on break-even margins – could remain closed, making it harder for families to find child care.

“Republicans and Democrats have consistently worked together to address these issues. In the last five years, Congress has doubled funding for the child care and development block grant and included billions of dollars in much-needed support to providers and essential workers in the CARES Act.

“With states safely reopening, child care providers now face many new challenges. These include restrictions on group and class sizes, social distancing guidelines, and other health and safety protocols that are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These new requirements and ongoing concerns the pandemic presents are making it hard for providers to recover and maintain a thriving business.

“Yesterday, I had the privilege of talking to four child care center directors in my district. In Indiana, child care was deemed an essential service. All the providers I talked to have gone above and beyond to keep their businesses afloat and make sure their teachers and children are in a safe environment.

“One provider said she spent $20,000 to stock her two centers with face masks, cleaning materials and individual sets of learning materials for children. Another provider needed to put in a new handwashing sink, and another was hiring a cleaning service to take some of the burden off her staff. They talked about the need to hire quality teachers so they can have smaller class sizes and consumer education so parents can feel comfortable bringing their kids back. In my district, the manufacturing industry relies heavily on these providers and it’s a battle every day to keep their doors open.

“Thankfully, these and many other child care providers in Indiana are receiving extra support through grant awards from Early Learning Indiana as part of its “Come Back Stronger” campaign, which was launched in early May with the support of a $15 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. Since then, Early Learning Indiana has awarded 155 early education providers more than 2 million dollars for health and safety-related expenses and hiring teachers.

“From the beginning of this crisis, Indiana acted to prioritize working families by using funds from the CARES Act to provide rapid response grants directly to child care providers. I have tremendous respect for the state and local leaders who stepped up and worked hard to help families impacted by the pandemic. I am thrilled to have Dr. Sullivan with us today to talk about these initiatives.

“Traditionally in these discussions, the needs of child care centers take center stage. But I also want to highlight small, home-based providers. Many family child care homes played an important role throughout this crisis by remaining open to provide child care for essential workers, particularly those working nontraditional hours. Family child care arrangements are often more affordable and provide flexibility for working parents. Many parents prefer family child care because it offers smaller scale, mixed age care that allows for close and lasting bonds with a caregiver.

“As we continue to deal with this public health emergency, we should ensure the availability of child care settings that serve small groups of children, which can be a reassuring option for parents concerned about exposure to COVID-19. These family child care providers are also just the kind of small business that our economic recovery will depend on.

“I hope we can work together to find ways to support and strengthen child care for working families. If a large portion of our nation’s providers are forced to permanently shut down, parents in all industries will be unable to return to work, significantly slowing our economic recovery. Child care is exactly the type of smart investment we should be prioritizing as we safely reopen and rebuild America’s economy.

“I look forward to our discussion. With that, I yield back.”

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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