“For Rep. Wild, this bill might also provide a foundation for downstream economic normalization; if child care is more accessible, the argument goes, then it becomes less burdensome for parents to return to work, seek out new potential employment, or continue their own education.”
n Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020, a bill introduced by Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) intended to make child care resources more readily available throughout the remainder of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Rep. Wild had discussed in her Merion West interview last month various initiatives she was aiming to spearhead to counteract the effects of the pandemic. The bill, which passed on a voice vote, had attracted an equal number of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors. As such, the bill’s co-sponsors remain optimistic that the bipartisan nature of the initiative might play well in encouraging a Republican-led Senate to consider the bill, either individually or as a part of broader negotiations on another potential COVID-19 response package.
According to Rep. Wild’s office, the bill emerged, in large part, from the Congresswoman’s conversations with constituents about the challenges of balancing child care with returning to work. This became particularly acute given the beginning of the school year earlier this month, with many schools opting for online learning rather than in-person instruction. For Rep. Wild, this bill might also provide a foundation for downstream economic normalization; if child care is more accessible, the argument goes, then it becomes less burdensome for parents to return to work, seek out new potential employment, or continue their own education. The impact of the pandemic has also been felt considerably by single parents.
In a floor speech given on the day of the bill’s passing, Rep. Wild urged the bill’s adoption by asserting that, “Estimates suggest that this fall, nearly 24 million workers with children between the ages of 6 and 14 will have no at-home child care option. For parents struggling to care for their children while maintaining their professional responsibilities or trying to return to the workforce, this time has been an unprecedented challenge.” In particular, the bill looks to expand resources for community-based centers (such as YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs) that typically provide before or after school programs to bolster either these or offer more programming during typical school hours. In Rep. Wild’s view, this—in addition to providing more flexibility for parents—offers a more structured environment for students, particularly amid concerns that interruptions in the normal academic year may leave students falling behind. All the while, Rep. Wild has emphasized the importance of maintaining social distancing measures and various other virus mitigation strategies at those community learning centers serving students.
In the words of one of the Congresswoman’s constituents, La-Vie, who participated in one of her recent virtual town halls, “It’s more on me to make sure that everything [my nephew] is learning is penetrating…For right now, I haven’t been able to get a typical job because of that.”
According to Rep. Wild’s press secretary, Gabriella DeStefano, a top priority for the Congresswoman will be this bill (or measures along these lines) being considered by the Senate. And with the bill’s co-sponsors including Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Nj.), and Rep. Don Young (R-Ak.), this may increase that probability.
A Congressional Budget Office cost estimate of this bill has yet to be calculated.
Erich J. Prince is the editor of Merion West.