The Covid-19 pandemic forced policymakers to draw a bold line between which services are essential and which services are not for the health and welfare of Americans. “Nonessential” service businesses and providers struggled to continue operating as they frantically sought alternative revenue streams as societal restrictions took hold. Nonessential jobs were lost by the millions. Essential services rely in part on the patronage of nonessential workers to continue regular operations.
Child care is an essential service. This industry employs nearly 1.5 million workers whose cumulative efforts enable other essential workers like grocers, mechanics, and postal workers to focus on their work without taking on the daily care of their children. Stay-at-home orders for nonessential workers reduced child care demands, leading to economic hardships for child care businesses, such as day care centers. Permanent loss of access to child care limits essential worker readiness and impacts how quickly nonessential workers return to business.
In response to growing concerns about how child care business closures might affect national provision of essential services, the federal government implemented the CARES Act. This block grant included a provision allocating $3.5 billion in emergency funds to support child care services. As shown in the graphic above, the majority of states opted to use a portion of CARES Act funding to directly subsidize child care. Some states used this money to fund child care primarily serving essential workers. Others covered the costs families paid for child care.
As states continue to reopen, child care providers might face additional financial difficulties. Commencement of regular caregiving activities require new health and safety guidelines that might demand cash for purchases of PPE and other health and safety equipment.
Databyte via Elizabeth Bedrick, Sarah Daily. “States Are Using the CARES Act to Improve Child Care Access during COVID-19.” Child Trends. 8 June 2020.