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Top Democrats ready emergency child care cash infusion

Funding push comes as pandemic-era money set to expire

Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, and Patty Murray, D-Wash., are among lawmakers who will seek billions for child care.
Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, and Patty Murray, D-Wash., are among lawmakers who will seek billions for child care. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A group of Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., are planning on introducing legislation this week that would provide $16 billion in funding for child care, sources familiar with the effort say.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and House Minority Whip Katherine M. Clark, D-Mass., are also leading the longshot stand-alone effort to secure the funding, which House appropriations ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is also pushing.

With $24 billion in funding for child care providers from the 2021 pandemic relief law set to expire in September, 3.2 million children could lose their care, according to a projection from the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.

The White House did not include child care funding in its supplemental request in August, which would have been a potential vehicle for the money.

The administration has asked for $44 billion in supplemental funding: $24.1 billion in assistance for Ukraine and other allies, $16 billion for disaster relief and $4 billion for border security and migrant aid.

On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in its monthly update to Congress that it expects to exhaust its final $3.4 billion for major disaster declarations by the end of this month. FEMA also said that $8 billion in previously planned relief projects were on hold as a result of the immediate needs facing survivors of the Maui wildfires and other recent disasters.

Emergency funding for Ukraine is in doubt given House GOP concerns, let alone efforts to add additional funds outside the scope of the White House request.

The National Women’s Law Center led a letter signed by 994 national and state organizations and sent to congressional leaders Monday urging lawmakers to act.

“Without these federal funds, we are once again creeping towards another child care crisis that would carry major economic consequences,” the groups write, representing child care providers, civil rights and religious groups, small businesses, after-school and summer programs and more.

Funding in the pandemic rescue law for Child Care and Development Block Grants is set to expire in September 2024, another deadline advocates are eying.

Murray and DeLauro have been sounding the alarm for months about money for child care providers drying up.

In a press conference last week urging support for the White House’s emergency funding package, Murray said she is “ready to work with my Republican colleagues in every way possible to help make sure our child care centers remain open and our kids don’t lose those slots, and parents — especially our moms — can stay at work.”

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