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Shutdown-averting bill has money for AFSCME child care priorities, but more is needed

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Shutdown-averting bill has money for AFSCME child care priorities, but more is needed

A congressional spending package aimed at averting a federal government shutdown includes funding to support our nation’s child care infrastructure — something AFSCME members have long fought for – but it’s just a downpayment given the extent of the need.

“This bipartisan bill ensures our workforce is strong, that families are healthy and safe, and that the future of our children is secure,” said Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

She said the bill includes “an increase of $1 billion for child care and Head Start to help hardworking families access quality child care.”

Following months of negotiations, AFSCME and our allies in Congress have secured $8.7 billion in funding for the Child Care and Development Fund, which supports providers assisting lower income communities. This is a $725 million funding boost from the previous fiscal year.

Head Start, which promotes school readiness for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, will receive more than $12 billion from the spending package — an increase of $275 million.

These funding increases represent a critical lifeline for AFSCME child care providers, who help working parents break into the middle class. But for too long, providers have been struggling to support their own families.

Ana María Santiago, who runs Santiago’s Family Child Care in Santa Barbara, California, and is a member of Child Care Providers United (UDW/AFSCME), described her financial difficulties in a 2022 interview and appealed to Congress for provide additional support.

“We deserve to make better wages,” Santiago said. “We shouldn’t always be struggling. I should be able to hire another assistant. And we should have benefits. Right now, we don’t have health care coverage or retirement benefits.”

The historic lack of investment and low pay has led to a shortage of child care workers across the country. Not only does this decrease options for parents and children, but it leaves providers like Santiago stretched thin and burnt out.

The latest federal spending package is a start to break this cycle but much more is needed. AFSCME continues to support the president’s request for $16 billion in emergency funds to extend child care stabilization in order to give providers the resources they need to sustain themselves and enable more of them to keep their doors open — which, in turn, will give more parents access to quality and affordable child care.

This injection of much-needed funds is a result of AFSCME members sharing their stories with legislators, conveying the dire situation child care providers face in this country and the need to address it as soon as possible. Congress heard us, and included our priorities in the funding bill.

Our work is not done. AFSCME members will continue the fight for sustainable investments in child care, and we will keep up our organizing efforts until every child care worker who wants a seat at the table has one.

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