Bobby Scott: Time to battle for child-care funds
As Congress gears up to battle over how much to spend on infrastructure, Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-Newport News, wants to be sure his Capitol Hill colleagues remember one part of the foundation that keeps an economy growing: Child care.
“If we’re going to get all these jobs, people need the things that make it possible to work, and that’s child care,” he told staff at the Downtown Hampton Child Development Center.
The pandemic hit child-care facilities hard, he said.
Those that remained open faced big bills to arrange for social distancing and hygiene measures — and had to spend that money as parents, stuck at home, decided to keep their children home too. Many simply closed their doors, and face bills to prepare for reopening.
That’s why President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan is calling for financial help for child care providers, Scott said.
Biden’s plan closely tracks a bill Scott first introduced in 2019, when it gained no traction, but that he and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, reintroduced earlier this year.
Biden’s $225 billion child care program would cap child care costs children up to age 5 at 7% of family income for families earning less than 1.5 times their state’s median income. The government would provide funding to child care providers to make that cap possible.
Biden also called for a partnership with states to provide free preschool to all 3-and 4-year-olds, about five million children.
“Everything we do with education, it all starts here,” Scott said. Access to preschool programs pays off in high school and beyond, he said.
Biden’s plan would set a floor of $15 an hour for employees of pre-K and Head Start programs, and says those whose qualifications are comparable to kindergarten teachers would be paid comparable salaries.
“Finding teachers, and paying them, that’s our big challenge,” the center’s program manager, Vandella Gregory, said.
The center serves 100 children from all over Hampton Roads, “and we’re getting calls every day, asking if we have space,” she said.
And despite the challenges of dealing with the pandemic, the center forged partnerships that help it give children new experiences, like the vegetable garden Virginia Cooperative Extension helped set up, to supplement Ebony Mouling’s healthy foods curriculum for her 3-year-olds.
They’s been heading out in the next few weeks to begin gathering their produce, she told Scott.