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A child-care crisis is looming

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Jones, S.
Publication Date: 
28 Jun 2023



On September 30, a third of the child-care programs supported by the American Rescue Plan Act’s stabilization funds are set to expire, which means that around 3.2 million children could lose their spots. “Child care for millions of children and families nationwide will begin to disappear,” researchers write, “with dire consequences for children, families’ earnings, and state economies.”

Families would then face difficult choices, researchers add: Many parents will leave the workforce to stay home with their children, which would cost families an estimated $9 billion in earnings. Families and workers find their causes linked: When the former suffers, so does the latter. If lawmakers don’t step in, the child-care industry could lose some 232,000 jobs.


As funds expire, the country is set to regress. Child care was already in crisis by the time the pandemic struck. High costs burdened even middle-class families, and as researchers point out in the report, slightly more than half the country lived in a “child-care desert,” which the report defines as “an area where there are more than three children under age 5 for each licensed child-care slot.”


As researchers note, ARPA funds kept the child-care sector from falling into total collapse — and in doing so kept many families afloat. Should funds disappear at the end of September, parents may have no choice but to cut back hours or leave the workforce altogether. That could destabilize the millions of households living paycheck to paycheck. “Research has repeatedly shown that even short disruptions in work can lead to long-term lifelong earnings losses,” researchers write. The effects can be especially pronounced for women: “Even reducing hours to work part-time can have negative effects on lifelong earnings for women.” Women lost 2 million more jobs than men in the early stages of the pandemic. Though they’ve since returned to the workforce at a faster pace than men, a fall off the child-care cliff could threaten the progress they’ve made.