The Child Care Cliff

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The funding provided under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) expired on Sept. 30, leaving many families and child care providers adrift.

According to the U.S. Deptartment of Health and Human Services, ARPA included almost $24 billion in grants to stabilize child care providers by helping them compensate for unexpected costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, child care in this country operated on very thin margins and options for high quality and affordable child care have been too scarce and unaffordable for many families—especially families with low income,” Allison Socol says. “When the pandemic hit, it just exacerbated that situation.”

Socol, a Montgomery County resident, is vice president of p-12 policy, practice and research for The Education Trust (EdTrust). EdTrust is a national nonprofit, headquartered in Washington, D.C., that works with policymakers, advocates and community members to leverage data and research to push for policies that can increase educational opportunity and outcomes, according to Socol.

Socol says that without federal and state action, the pandemic relief is going to dry up and parents all over the country are facing a potentially devastating fiscal cliff. Some consequences of that would include centers closing, employee wages and benefits being cut and tuition for child care being raised.

“[This will] leave many families, especially families of color and families with low incomes, without access to affordable, high quality early childhood education,” Socol warns.
The importance of early childhood education can’t be overstated.

Read More: How to Choose the Right Child Care and Strategies for Separation Anxiety

Zero to Three, a national nonprofit based in D.C., champions the first three years of life as the most important for mental health and well-being. Each year, the nonprofit creates a report that examines the health of babies and their families across the country.

The report, called the “State of Babies,” looks at more than 60 indicators of well-being and another 30 demographic indicators. The goal of the report, according to Patricia Cole, is to highlight the needs of families and discover what areas need attention and what policies might work to address families’ needs.

Cole is the senior director of data and federal policy for Zero to Three.

In 2023’s “State of Babies,” Cole says three big things kept popping up that she believes would make a big difference in the lives of U.S. infants. Those three policies are restoring the expanded and enhanced child tax credit, additional stabilization funding to shore up the child care system and the implementation of paid family leave.

Paid family leave would give parents more time where they are able to be at home, spending time with their new baby. It would also take pressure off parents trying to find care for their infants and newborns—the most difficult age to find care for.

But no matter the age of their child, it can be especially difficult for single parents, who have a more limited income—where higher child care costs could mean having to choose between care and other needs.

According to Zero to Three’s State of Babies, 30% of D.C.’s babies belong to single-parent households. Single-parent households are more vulnerable to the child care crisis because they don’t have a second parent to fall back on or accommodate scheduling. Zero in on your area’s statistics online at

Throughout the DMV, government officials are working to address the child care cliff.
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Senators Patty Murray, Bob Casey and Mazie Hirono are advocating for the passage of the Child Care for Working Families Act. The bill, according to Voices for Virginia’s Children, would provide critical funding to stabilize the child care industry.

Child Care in Maryland

In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan announced an additional $50 million in grant funding for child care providers in 2022. With the expiration of federal funds, the governor’s 2023 budget is set to extend the program and provide additional relief to licensed child care providers.


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