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Lawmakers seek to prevent ‘child care cliff’ for parents of infants and toddlers.

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Millions of families are facing the risk of losing access to child care as emergency funding for providers expires. The $24 billion Child Care Stabilization Program, which was allocated during the pandemic, is set to end unless Congress takes action before the deadline on Saturday. The potential funding loss puts day care centers, preschools, and other child care facilities in jeopardy. Lawmakers who rely on child care themselves are leading the charge to extend the funding, emphasizing the urgent need to address this issue. However, with the government also facing a possible shutdown, the time to act is running out.

An analysis from the Century Foundation reveals that around 70,000 child care programs could close due to the funding loss, leaving at least 3.2 million children without child care. The impact goes beyond access to child care, as families are estimated to lose $9 billion per year in earnings. Additionally, the economy could suffer with more individuals forced out of the labor market due to the challenges of finding or affording child care. The Child Care Stabilization Act is at the center of lawmakers’ efforts to prevent this crisis. Despite having the support of a significant number of House members and senators, the bill faces slim chances of passing this year due to Republican control of the House.

Lawmakers are underlining the importance of extending the funding, stressing that it is not a handout but rather a means to ensure economic competitiveness and maintain a thriving economy. Various caucuses, such as the Congressional Dads Caucus and the Democratic Women’s Caucus, have sent letters urging House leaders to take action. Rep. Brittany Pettersen is exploring alternative solutions to address the expensive costs of infant and toddler care. These include converting underutilized buildings into day care centers and offering low-interest loans to parents. The impending funding cliff, if not averted, will have far-reaching consequences not just for families with children but for the broader economy that relies on them.

While concerns about child care transcend party lines, finding comprehensive ways to improve the system remains a priority. Rep. Patrick McHenry acknowledges the necessity of further remedies for child care, ranging from neonatal care to pre-K or kindergarten programs. Although he disagrees with the Biden administration’s approach, he is willing to work in a bipartisan manner for long-term solutions. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, co-founder of the Congressional Dads Caucus, emphasizes the importance of addressing the child care crisis and has found common ground with conservative colleagues who are receptive to the issue. However, broader attention and action from the Republican conference is still needed.

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