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Child care aid is about to expire. CT advocates call on Congress for urgent help

Teachers, Childcare workers, families and Stamford residents gather to rally for early educators at the Children's Learning Centers of Fairfield County in Stamford, CT. March 8, 2023
Tony Spinelli
Connecticut Public
Teachers, Childcare workers, families and Stamford residents gather to rally for early educators at the Children's Learning Centers of Fairfield County in Stamford, CT. March 8, 2023

During the pandemic child care providers were given stabilization grants through the American Rescue Plan to keep their services open. But those funds are to expire on Sept. 30. Child care providers in Connecticut say it will negatively impact families and the economy.

On Monday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal held a press conference urging Congress to extend funds to address the child care crisis, asking for $16 billion to help child care providers across the country, including in Connecticut.

He said child care providers have been hit hard, even before the pandemic, many of them suffering financial losses and facing the prospect of closing their businesses.

“Right now we need to make sure that our child care system, literally at the brink of collapse — of a fiscal cliff — is saved for those thousands of children in Connecticut and child care workers who may be deprived of facilities that, right now, are outgoing and that may lose money at the end of this month,” Blumenthal said.

The proposed Child Care for Every Community Act would provide free child care to families earning 75%, or less, of the median income, Blumenthal said. Families making more would be expected to pay $10 per day. He said families, regardless of their income, will pay at most 7% of their income for child care.

Jessica Sager is the co-founder and chief executive officer at All Our Kin, a child care advocacy group in Stamford. She believes that without new federal support, educators and families will be left in limbo.

“After September 30th, little by little, as those funds dry up more and more programs are going to either raise their prices or close their businesses,” Sager said. “We know that educators are terribly worried and we know the parents are terribly worried too.”

According to a study by Connecticut Voices for Children, about 20% of Connecticut's child care centers have permanently closed since the pandemic due to the state's child care costs, leading many women to leave the workforce to care for their families.

Anna Witkoski, the chief education officer for the Children’s Learning Center of Fairfield County, said inadequate funding and staffing shortages aggravate the situation.

“The government funding is inadequate,” Witkoski said. “Why would folks wanna come and work in an early childhood care center when they can go to public schools or retail? We can't even compare with the competitor pay that is out there.”

Both organizations agreed that the Connecticut Department of Education and some legislators have been advocating for increased child care support.

Antonia Better-Wirz is the educational coach at All Our Kin. She said many child care providers are foundedr staffed by immigrants and women from diverse communities. She said they need bipartisan support to address the crisis.

“Women that came to this country opened their doors to create work for themselves and to support families,” Better-Wirz said. “It’s basically serving everybody in our community from various socio-economics.”

Both organizations are asking the federal government to create a system of funding for child care where educators are paid a wage that fairly compensates them for the important work they do.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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