HARRISBURG − January 22, 2021 − Yesterday, members of the Pennsylvania’s Women’s Health Caucus (WHC), Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), and other elected officials held a press conference to call on Governor Tom Wolf to restore subsidies to child care centers to pre-pandemic levels.
At an October rally, a sampling of 81 child care centers reported a loss of $1.5 million in state funding during just the first month of the OCDEL funding change. More than four months after that policy change, the accumulated financial loss has had devastating effects with 154 child care centers in Southeast Pennsylvania going out of business; hundreds more are barely able to keep their doors open. Governor Wolf has the authority to direct new federal funding to child care providers to increase payments moving forward and to pay back the funding they lost.
Starting in September 2020, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) slashed payment levels to child care providers. Speakers shared how this has reverberated throughout their communities, hurting children, families, and child care center employees and owners.
The PA Women’s Health Caucus is a bicameral caucus co-chaired by Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks), Senator Amanda M. Cappelletti (D-Montgomery, Delaware), Representative Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) and Representative Mary Jo Daley (D-Narberth). The caucus’ mission statement is “The Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of legislators partnering with interest groups and advocacy organizations to develop and implement legislation and social policy that protects and respects women’s health, including the right to make private, personal medical decisions.”
Under this umbrella of women’s health, access to affordable child care has been at the forefront of discussions during this pandemic, as the burden has mostly fallen on women. Providing accessible and affordable child care has not been easy during this crisis, and child care centers need help. This is why members of the caucus and other lawmakers joined with PCCY to call on Governor Wolf to restore child care subsidies to pre-pandemic levels.
“Child care needs to be prioritized at every level of government,” Newly elected co-chair of the caucus, Senator Amanda M. Cappelletti said. “This issue overwhelmingly effects women, who are primarily the owners and employees at child care centers. We know especially women of color have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic. They need our help now.”
“Child care is absolutely as much a part of our state’s infrastructure as roads and utilities,” Senator Judy Schwank, co-chair of the WHC, said. “It’s far past time we treat this service as such. I urge the Wolf administration to restore funding for child care providers to pre-pandemic levels and use additional federal relief to reinforce our child care system.
Members of the caucus include senators, representatives, and advocates. Here’s what members and other lawmakers had to say on the issue:
- “Child care dollars are some of the most effective dollars we spend in government. We have to get more members to understand and appreciate the importance of this issue and build a broader base of support,” Senate Democratic Leader Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said.
- “Child care workers keep our country going, and since COVID-19 hit, they’ve taken one gut punch after another. We can, and must, do better for them. That starts with immediately putting federal funding to use so we can keep providers afloat. The success of childcare workers is the success of parents, children, and our entire Commonwealth,” Senator Tim Kearney (D) from Delaware County said.
- “Quality childcare is essential to starting our children on the right track to a strong educational foundation that will support them throughout their life,” said state Rep. Jordan Harris, House Democratic Whip. “I encourage our governor, who I know puts early education and childcare at the top of his priority list, to reevaluate funding priorities and ensure childcare providers have the resources they need.”
- “The Wolf administration can’t continue to talk about making affordable childcare a priority for working families then take actions that shut their doors. Our budget is a direct reflection of our priorities.” Said Senator Maria Collett (D-Montgomery, Bucks). “If this really is a priority, now’s the time to pay up. Because without more funding, child care providers won’t survive. Without a functioning child care sector, Pennsylvania’s economy won’t recover. More women will leave the workforce and an employment sector will disappear. And most dangerously, the opportunity to educate a generation of new learners will be lost.”
- “High quality childcare and early education make the difference not only for students, but also for parents. When I was a single mother raising my son, access to community resources and care options allowed me to develop my career, start a business, and continue to provide for my child. COVID-19 has pushed many parents to a crossroads, and I believe that this funding could alleviate the tough choices facing many families,” said Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D-Chester, Montgomery).