SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Billions of dollars in pandemic-era funding for child care is expiring this weekend causing concern for Utah families and childcare providers.
The American Rescue Plan Act allotted close to $40 billion to the childcare industry, $600 million of which went to Utah according to Voices for Utah Children, and is set to expire on Saturday, Sept. 29.
While the grant isn’t completely going away, payments will be reduced by 75% in October and are expected to run out in June.
It’s predicted that without these funds, over 3 million children will lose their childcare, according to the Century Foundation. Without these federal funds, over 35,000 children in Utah could lose their childcare and more than 600 childcare programs are projected to close.
With these funds running out, many are wondering what’s next as childcare providers and parents face tough decisions.
Director of Mt. Olympus Christian Child Development Center Maddie Woodruff said the funding allowed them to increase wages and improve the center’s playgrounds, flooring, and toys. She expressed concern that losing the funding might lead to decreased pay for teachers which could affect the overall quality of care.
When the center received the funding, Woodruff said they were told to make a plan on how to successfully phase it out which for them and many others meant increasing tuition. Woodruff said increasing the costs of childcare with the current inflation is a concern as “parents are already maxed out.”
“Parents simply cannot afford that. And it’s not fair. That could force parents to have to make a choice of either removing their children from care or having to make sacrifices elsewhere, having to put their children in unsafe care, unlicensed care, having to leave the workforce. I think it’s just putting people in a really difficult situation,” she said.
Woodruff said they are “demanding that [their] policymakers step up and make a change” of investing in childcare and early education.
She continued to say quality early childhood education decreases the risk of incarceration, increases chances of going to college, and improves our economy. She said because that helps everyone in Utah, it is everyone’s responsibility to reach out to policymakers about the issue.
“The system is broken. It shouldn’t have to be this way and it doesn’t have to be this way,” Woodruff said. “It’s time to invest in childcare and early childhood education because this is where it makes a difference.”