Rep. Susan Wild Hosts Roundtable to Discuss Need to Pass Supplemental Child Care Funding

BETHLEHEM, P.A. – Today, Congresswoman Susan Wild joined child care providers and parents at the Greater Valley YMCA, Bethlehem Branch for a roundtable discussion on what a lapse in child care funding would mean for them.

“Hearing the stories of child care providers and parents reinforces what I’ve said time and time again – that high-quality, affordable child care is necessary economic infrastructure for working families to reach their full economic potential,” said Congresswoman Susan Wild. “We must extend key child care funding, so care centers can stay open, providers can earn fair wages, and families can access the care they depend on.”

“The emergency funding from the American Rescue Plan helped stabilize the child care sector by providing foundational support to keep programs open, maintain staffing levels, and make sure programs remain affordable for families,” said Crystal Messer, Vice President of Child Care for the Greater Valley YMCA. “As programs spend down their last remaining stabilization dollars, child care providers like the Y will be challenged to continue meeting the needs of our Valley families while still experiencing staffing shortages and increased demand for services.”

“The supplemental funding proposed for child care would mean so much to the sectors’ infrastructure, accessibility and affordability for families and the healthy development of our youngest learners,” said Kimberly Early, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC). “With child care programs continuing to close altogether or closing classrooms because of the staffing crisis, the infusion of federal dollars would help support a system that operates on razor thin margins. Additional funding is critical to addressing the constriction of child care options for working families, allowing them to work and ultimately improving our overall economy.”

“I hope the supplemental funding being proposed will help centers open in child care deserts like Bath so families like mine can have child care options closer to home and businesses can benefit from my expertise,” said Cleo Otero of Bath, a mother of four who lost access to child care due to staffing shortages. “I want to thank Representative Wild for giving me the time to speak today and I want to urge our federal legislators to do all they can to support child care.”

“High quality child care is critical to a vibrant economy and community. Providing safe and nurturing environments for children while their parents are at work is essential,” said Pam Cho, Vice President of Early Learning Resource Centers at Community Services for Children. If families are unable to find and/or afford high-quality child care, they are faced with the difficult choice of exiting the workforce or placing their children in potentially precarious care arrangements. Now, more than ever before, funding is needed to stabilize the workforce behind the workforce – to ensure affordable high-quality care options for all families with young children.”

“Early childhood education is paramount. The YMCA helped me with preschool years with all of my kids and they really even teach me so much as a parent,” said Melinda Wood, a mother of three from Bethlehem. “Seven years ago, the rent was $1000 cheaper than it is now. I love nursing. I want to work. I couldn’t do child care without the YMCA and without the funding they help me with.”

Roundtable participants discussed the impact access to affordable child care has on their lives. One participant shared that there have been times when her entire paycheck went to child care, but her family could not afford to have her stay home and be a single income household. Another spoke about how she had to leave the workforce due to her inability to find adequate care for her children.

Providers discussed the impact of the pandemic and expiring child care funds on recruiting and retaining staff. They shared that they are currently experiencing staff leaving to pursue higher paying roles in order to support their own families. Not only does this exacerbate the shortage, they explained, but it also reduces the number of experienced mentors for newer staff to learn from. They also spoke about the lack of facilities with adequate space to put children.

At the end of September, key child care funding from the American Rescue Plan expired, leaving providers and parents struggling to make ends meet. Last Wednesday, the White House requested Congress pass $16 billion in supplemental funding to extend these child care grants for an additional year. This supplemental funding would bring $504 million to Pennsylvania, impacting approximately 7,000 providers that serve 375,900 children. Congresswoman Wild is pushing to pass this supplemental request, to ensure that child care centers in Pennsylvania and across the country can stay open and continue to serve working families.