Financing Children's Services in the Time of COVID-19
Communities across the country and the world are navigating uncharted waters as they manage the impacts of COVID-19. It is more important than ever that we do not lose focus on some of the most vulnerable members of our community—children and youth. We must think proactively about ways to sustainably finance the programs and services that support kids and families through the good, the bad, and the unfamiliar. Because of COVID-19’s potential economic impact on providers and families, the childcare and afterschool fields are exposed to great risk and uncertainty. 

A recent survey of 6,000 childcare providers from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) found that 30% said they could not survive a closure of more than two weeks without “significant public investment.” We have to be intentional about holding leaders at every level of government accountable for sheltering and empowering children, families, and the professionals who serve them during and beyond this emergency. It is critical that we keep pushing for strategic and sustained funding for children and youth, particularly at the local level.  

There are many unknowns right now, but one thing we know for sure is that once this crisis has subsided, people will emerge with a renewed appreciation of the essential role that childcare and afterschool providers, teachers, and caregivers play in keeping the world turning each and every day. At Children’s Funding Project, we’re working on harnessing this increased public awareness to cultivate a strong child and youth system.  Below we have gathered some current announcements, examples, and emergency financing ideas that we hope can help.

Elizabeth Gaines
Executive Director, Children's Funding Project
How localities are ensuring childcare access amidst closures

In the midst of school closures, changing work schedules, and uncertainty around out-of-school time, states across the country are announcing changes in childcare regulations in a bid to ensure communities have access to care. Strategies that states are using include: increases in the number of paid absent days for staff of publicly funded programs; relaxed ratio, group size, and space requirements; new, temporary emergency center licensing; waivers for attendance requirements; and simplified administrative processes and extended deadlines/waived fees for completing administrative processes.

Cities such as Philadelphia, D.C., and Seattle are offering grants and zero-interest loans to small businesses, including childcare centers. One Oregon YMCA announced an " Emergency Child Care Plan," devoting all of their childcare resources to kids whose parents are medical workers and vulnerable populations.

Michigan, Vermont, and others have classified early childhood education teachers as "essential workers" who provide critical infrastructure to the functioning of the state. While those of us in the field have known this for years, we look forward to more recognition of educators and providers by all.

For more updates on how COVID-19 is affecting providers, families, and policy by state, please see this list by the Alliance for Early Success.
How funding for kids programs is changing

In this fast-moving political landscape, new information is constantly emerging on how to respond to the pandemic. This includes what emergency funding is available to states and localities. We have compiled some resources on how federal programs that serve children and youth allow for flexibility of funds during states of emergency: 

Last week, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, providing some employees up to 10 paid sick days and up to 10 weeks of paid family and medical leave, in addition to other critical measures. However, this bill leaves many low-waged workers uncovered, as this analysis by the National Women's Law Center shows.
Why the census is more important now than ever

The Census Bureau recently announced that it was temporarily suspending field operations due to concerns about COVID-19. This has the potential to affect not only those who cannot be counted but all Americans, especially families. The 2010 census resulted in a net undercount rate of 1.7% for kids - that's 1.3 million children. It's imperative for that figure to improve, not worsen, during this time, since Census Bureau data affects congressional representation as well as many federal programs including SNAP, Head Start, school breakfasts, Child Care and Development Fund, and general grants to states.

If you have that census form sitting unopened on your kitchen table, now's the time to lighten the load by filling it out. Here's how.
Additional resources we've found helpful