September 20, 2023

Chairing Subcommittee on Economic Policy, Senator Warren Highlights Potential Consequences of Looming Child Care Funding Cliff

Warren: “We need long term investments in child care, and we must at least keep the child care industry from tumbling off a devastating cliff.”

Opening Statement (YouTube)

Washington, D.C. — Chairing a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Policy, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) highlighted the upcoming child care funding cliff, detailing how $50 billion in child care stabilization funding prevented the industry from collapsing in the midst of the pandemic, while emphasizing that the potential consequences of this funding cliff may be devastating for the American economy.

Transcript: Child Care Since the Pandemic: Macroeconomic Impacts of Public Policy Measures
U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy
Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Senator Elizabeth Warren: This hearing will come to order.

Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s hearing on “Child Care Since the Pandemic: Macroeconomic Impacts of Public Policy Measures.”

I want to get right to the point: federal child care funding is on the verge of a massive funding cliff. This cliff has the potential to cause more than three million children across this country to lose their care, and the impacts will ripple throughout our whole economy. 

But here’s the kicker: we here in Congress have the power to stop this. 

That’s why we are having today’s hearing and that’s why I am so happy that we have our witnesses here today – Glenn Hopkins, who runs a child care center, Sarah Hardy, co-founder and COO of an infant formula company, and Kathryn Edwards, an economist and an expert on the labor market. They are here to help explain what the looming child care cliff will mean for businesses, for their workers, for parents and families, and for our whole economy.

Three years ago, in the early weeks of the pandemic, thousands of child care centers were forced to close their doors. Those closures exposed a truth that millions of American families already knew: the child care system in America is badly broken. 

For decades, millions of working families have struggled to find care for their children and, if they are fortunate enough to find good care, millions struggle to pay for it so they can go to work or to school. Access to high quality child care is essential to our economy. If mamas and daddies can’t get care for their babies, they can’t go to work. And if millions of parents can’t go to work, businesses can’t find the workers they need to operate. And if businesses cut back because they can’t find workers, then national productivity and economic growth suffer.

These realities hit especially hard during the pandemic. When the entire child care industry was on the verge of total collapse, Senator Tina Smith and I rang the alarm bell. Democrats in Congress responded to this threat by providing $50 billion in federal funding to help stabilize the child care industry.  

This funding couldn’t possibly solve every problem, but it worked – and it kept the industry afloat. Child care providers used those funds to help pay for rent, to keep children and workers safe, to raise wages to alleviate the massive funding shortages, and much more.  And millions of children got the care they needed.

But now, the child care industry is back on the brink of disaster. Most of the child care relief funding expires at the end of September – that’s just ten days from now. 

What will it mean for American families if we don’t invest more in child care? Analysts estimate that 70,000 child care programs will close. 

That means nearly a quarter of a million child care workers could lose their jobs, and over 3 million children could lose their care. Millions of parents, especially moms, will be forced to leave the labor force – at a time when we are already facing an incredibly tight labor market. 

The ripple effects will be far-reaching and devastating.

We cannot let this happen. We must act, and we must act quickly. We have champions in the Senate willing to get this done. Last month, I joined Senators Kaine, Smith, and 27 of our colleagues calling for $16 billion in emergency federal funding so child care providers can keep their doors open. Just last week, the White House announced support for efforts to secure additional funding for child care, and I’m willing to reach across the aisle to work with any Republican who wants to help get this done.  

We’ve got one big opportunity before us this month. In August, the Administration sent its supplemental emergency spending request for Ukraine, disaster relief, and more. The Senate has now started debate on that package, and by the end of the month, we need to reach an agreement to fund the government and prevent a shutdown.

This is a must-pass bill. We need to keep the government going so that we can continue food safety inspections and vital medical research. We must protect our national security interests in Ukraine and around the world. We have to respond to the natural disasters that have devastated communities around the nation, including in Massachusetts. And we cannot leave American families behind. We need long term investments in child care, and we must at least keep the child care industry from tumbling off a devastating cliff. 

Once again, I want to thank the members of this committee, and I thank our witnesses for helping to make clear the importance of this investment in America’s families.