Rep. Michelle Steel (CA-48), a member of the Committee on Education and Labor, and Rep. David Schweikert (AZ-06), a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, introduced a bill that would increase access to childcare programs for working parents. The legislation would make subgrants available to employers to use for opening or expanding childcare programs or establishing partnerships with childcare providers.
The American Rescue Plan Act, which passed along party lines and became law in March 2021, provided $24 billion for a new stabilization fund (Section 2202). States are required by law to notify the Department of Health and Human Services by December 2021 if they cannot obligate at least 50 percent of those funds. The Steel-Schweikert proposal offers an alternative for states to repurpose unobligated funds aimed at increasing the supply of childcare and emphasizing long-term stability in the sector.
“The COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of parents out of the work force. We need to make it easier for these parents to return to work,” said Rep. Steel. “By helping businesses that choose to provide childcare options, more parents will have the opportunity to get back to work full-time.”
“I am pleased to introduce this important legislation to assist parents in returning to the workforce and help businesses offer childcare services,” said Rep. Schweikert. “Right now, it is more important than ever that we find ways to help businesses retain their workers and get individuals back to work. These flexibilities provide the initial assistance that businesses and parents need to successfully return to the workforce.”
The U.S. Department of Labor cited more than 1.6 million Moms and 1.3 million Dads have left the workforce between January 2020 and January 2021. A shortage of childcare in Orange County is causing $4.3 billion in lost productivity in wages, according to The First 5 Orange County. According to the Department of Labor’s most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report, the U.S. hit a record number of open jobs, with 9.3 million openings.
This legislation provides start-up funding for businesses so that they can invest in a childcare system for employees’ children, making it easier for parents to reenter the workforce. The bill encourages long-term stability in the childcare system by requiring businesses to demonstrate their plans to sustain a childcare program even after the grant period is over.