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Child Care is a Central Issue for Children and Families as we Re-Open the Economy and Re-emerge from this Pandemic

Child Care is a Central Issue for Children and Families as we Re-Open the Economy and Re-emerge from this Pandemic

May 29, 2020

By Alison Paxson, Policy Fellow

Co-chaired by Sen. Peggy Lehner and Rep. Allison Russo, the Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral, issues-based caucus created to improve the effectiveness and reach of policy designed to positively impact children from birth to age eighteen (and beyond in some cases). The goal of the caucus is to make a significant and lasting difference in the lives of children through public policy to move the needle on these child indicators of well-being.

On May 22nd, the Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus launched a new webinar series to convene state leaders, policymakers, and advocates on a bi-weekly basis to discuss how our state can advance investments and child-focused policies to support a strong and resilient Ohio during this public health crisis and beyond.

For the caucus’ first webinar, more than 250 participants joined lawmakers and an expert panel to learn more about what needs persist in the child care system as we re-open state businesses and the economy. The panel recommended specific actions needed at every level of government in order to address the issues we see in our child care system – issues that were there well before this pandemic but are now further magnified.

The call’s panelists and attendees engaged in a dialogue about what guidance, investments, and policies are needed so that parents can get back to work, resting assured that their children are cared for in safe spaces equipped with adequate resources, staff, and supplies needed deliver high quality care during this crisis.

The featured guests for this panel included:

Moderated by Children’s Caucus co-chair, Rep. Allison Russo, roundtable panelists’ presentations were followed by a Q&A session for lawmakers. Policymakers discussed how they can help eliminate the challenge of accessing quality child care during this uncertain time and what next steps can be taken to call attention to these issues not just here in Ohio, but with their colleagues at the federal level. During discussion, Rep. Lightbody announced that she would be introducing new legislation in the near term to increase the eligibility threshold for publicly funded child care in Ohio from 130% to 200% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL).

An important message voiced by all was that it’s very important that Ohio gets this right. The lives of our youngest Ohioans have been significantly affected by this pandemic and these young children have experienced major disruptions in their learning time, nutrition, and an abrupt break in consistency in general. These disruptions are not conducive to healthy early childhood development. We must re-open early childhood education and care centers with sound policies and practices that put the safety of children first.

As our panelist, Carol Haynes, said:

“We have got to emerge from this health care crisis with a more robust system and we have this opportunity right now to fund these initiatives and to support kids, support families, and to support the staff that has really upheld and amplified the voice of kids across this entire state. These are our youngest citizens and they deserve our best and that is putting together a policy that is going to keep them safe, it needs to happen now.”

Key takeaways from this webinar include:

  • Reduced ratios of the numbers of adults-to-children and class size limits means programs will have to reduce their capacity by 30% to 50%. This has significant implications for Ohio’s child care sector. Fewer children will be able to be served in the same space and more staff will be required to provide care which puts significant strain on child care centers financially and means less access to care for families who need it most.
  • In Ohio, it is estimated that 45% of child care supply (capacity both public and private) is at risk of being lost. The next federal stimulus package needs to include a national investment of $50 billion to stabilize state child care systems. (Ohio needs approximately $1.6 billion of this total.)
  • A survey of families in rural Appalachian communities revealed that many families feel they have zero options to access any child care at all. In fact, even before the pandemic, 29 of 31 Appalachian counties in Ohio qualified as child care deserts and had three or more children vying for one child care slot. Equitable access to child care was a critical issue in Ohio’s Appalachian regions long before this pandemic, and this will only be further exacerbated unless we act now to help children and families.
  • In order to address foreseeable disproportionate impacts of the child care crisis on women, people of color, and families of lower income, we need considerable interventions from our state legislature. Examples of some of the actions our state should take now to support early child education and care in Ohio are:
    • Continue the Stabilization and Recovery closure grant;
    • Provide HERO hazard pay to pandemic centers and staff commensurate to hours served;
    • Immediately divert one million pieces of PPE to child care centers across Ohio.
  • Lastly, it is essential that we improve accessibility to publicly funded child care for working families by raising eligibility from 130% to 250% FPL for the next 18 months.

This series of webinars will continue through August 2020.

If you are interested in registering for the next webinar centering on the topic of child welfare next Friday, June 5, 2020 at 1:00pm, please click here.

To access a recording of this webinar, please click here and scroll to the video filed under the date May 22, 2020.

To access the slide deck presented during this webinar, please click here.

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