Tomorrow, President Joe Biden is expected to sign the American Rescue Plan, a sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus package to help families across the country struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation includes investments in child care, health care, housing assistance, special education, mental health services, stable access to food and other supports for families that will go a long way to alleviating many of the challenges the pandemic has brought to families across the country -particularly those who live in communities that have been historically under resourced and overburdened.
It provides $39 billion in child care funding, includes immediate supports for child care providers who have been hit hard by the pandemic economically, allows states to ensure essential workers can access child care with little- to no-cost to them — regardless of income — and includes funding for the important work of rebuilding and strengthening state child care systems.
The legislation also includes significant investments for other critical parts of the prenatal-five system, including $200 million to support preschoolers with disabilities and $250 million for infants and toddlers under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), $1B for Head Start programs, and $150 million for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.
In response, Kristin Bernhard, senior vice president of Policy and Advocacy at Start Early issued the following statement:
“Start Early applauds Congress for passing one the most significant investments in young children in decades, the American Rescue Plan. There has never been a more critical time to support children, families and the early childhood workforce.
“The last year has illuminated how the ongoing impact of historical and systemic racism continues to magnify the stressors so many of our youngest children and their families face, such as homelessness, food insecurity, and financial instability.
“While our early childhood education system was broken well before the pandemic began, the pandemic has left child care in America on the verge of collapse and in a state of crisis never seen before.
“Millions of families are struggling to provide the high-quality care needed for their children’s well-being and their ability to work. Doulas, home visitors, preschool teachers, in-home providers and other early childhood professionals have been forced to put their lives on the line or shutter their doors, all while being compensated at levels that don’t reflect their expertise or the importance and complexity of the work they do.
“Our nation has underfunded this crucial support for families for decades. This funding has the potential to improve access to quality early learning and care for all families.
“Perhaps most importantly, the American Rescue Plan creates an opportunity to build towards a bright and just future for all children. Now our efforts must focus on supporting states to effectively use the funds to repair and redesign early childhood systems and supports to be more equitable, to increase access for Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), to reach more children with disabilities and their families, and to target funding to build capacity of currently under-resourced communities.”