Davis Opening Statement at Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Hearing on the Child Care Crisis and the Coronavirus Pandemic June 23,2020
June 24, 2020
Events of the past few weeks have shown the need for policies to strengthen child well-being as thousands of youth all across America marched, demonstrated, and some even looted as they challenged our systems of social, educational and economic justice. Child care powers both family economic well-being and our national economic growth. Prior to the pandemic, federal funding only provided child care for one in six eligible children. And parents in communities weighed down by poverty and systemic racism experienced a shortage of high-quality, affordable child care. Today, we face a global pandemic that has disproportionately infected and killed people in these same struggling communities, and the child care crisis we had before is now much, much worse.
Now, parents have lost millions of additional child care options, and providers confront new costs to keep children and workers safe, risking financial losses for businesses already operating on the knife’s edge of profitability.
In Illinois, nearly half of all previously available child care slots are at risk of disappearing altogether due to the pandemic, and sixty percent of child care programs are fully-closed. In Chicago, we did not have much to lose. Pre-pandemic, five out of six Chicago children lived in a “child care desert” where children outnumbered child care slots by 3 to 1, or more.
As states lift stay-at-home orders and other economic restrictions, more parents are returning to work, if they can. Quality, affordable child care is a corner stone of parents’ ability to work and move up the economic ladder. I know essential workers who couldn’t work because they had no one to watch their kids. I know parents who have lost so much income that they can’t afford child care to work. As a Black man living in Chicago, I have grieved at far too many funerals for friends lost to COVID-19, and I know far too many parents who legitimately fear for their family’s health when they return to work and their children go back to child care.
When I see the devastation caused by this pandemic and the barriers to working due to child care, I am offended by claims that people will refuse to work because of the availability of supplemental unemployment benefits. This charge is simplistic, insulting, and refuted by data showing that low-wage workers stay at work and return to work even when faced with unsafe working conditions and inadequate wages. As our nation grapples with structural racism, policymakers need to enact policies that support workers and address the barriers they face, taking care not to penalize communities weighed down by poverty and racism.
Big challenges call for big solutions. Now is the time for this Committee and this Congress to take meaningful action to ensure that high-quality child care is available to all who need it.
I look forward to working with Ranking Member Walorski, the Members of our Subcommittee and full Committee, my great friend Bobby Scott who Chairs the Education and Labor Committee, and Chairwoman Nita Lowey at the Appropriations Committee to use all the levers at our disposal. To grow our workforce and our economy, we must invest in families and in our child care infrastructure – both the people and the buildings.