President Joe Biden has requested $16 billion in supplemental funding to stabilize the child care industry. The White House said Thursday that the funding would support at least 220,000 child care providers nationwide who collectively serve more than 10 million children.

The administration said the plan would advance women’s economic security, provide children with a strong educational start and support underserved communities.

But first, the supplemental request will have to win support from both the House and Senate, which advocates admit is far from assured in the existing ideologically divided political arena.

They are hopeful, though, because child care disruptions are seen as a worry about which there’s bipartisan agreement

The administration says child care costs vulnerable families too much, at the same time that those who work in the industry earn too little. According to White House figures, in 2022, the national average cost of child care exceeded $10,800 “and in 32 states, the annual average child care cost for an infant exceeded the average in-state tuition and fees at a public 4-year university,” according to a White House announcement that also cited U.S. Department of Labor statistics that said the median cost to care for one child can “range as high as 10% of median family income.”

Because it’s hard to find high-quality, affordable child care, some parents work multiple jobs and others leave the workforce entirely, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters during an online press conference Thursday.

“This is about lowering costs for families,” DeLauro said, noting child care was an industry in crisis before the pandemic, but is now facing catastrophe. “This directly relates to the biggest issue that families face today — and that is the high cost of living.”

She said that bolstering child care should top the domestic investment agenda.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters that the child care industry has been broken for a very long time and the sector is now “hanging by a thread.” The American Rescue Plan gave it a lifeline, she said.

“This is urgent funding to keep the child care industry from crumbling,” Murray said.

State child care allocations

The money would be allocated to states using a formula similar to the American Rescue Plan’s boosted child care funding. The rescue plan expired Sept. 30, leaving child care providers in a precarious position, said Jennifer Klein, a presidential assistant and director of the White House Gender Policy Council.

In a list released to the media, for instance, Texas would get the largest estimated amount, at around $1.79 billion to bolster almost 11,000 child care providers serving well over 833,00 children.

Utah’s on the list for about $199 million to help 1,580 providers responsible for 86,500 children. The estimated amounts are smallest for Wyoming and Vermont, which would each receive about $15 million. The money would help Vermont’s 970 providers who care for roughly 29,700 children, while Wyoming’s predicted allocation would go to an estimated 470 providers serving just under 18,000 children.

California is the only other state expected to get more than a billion dollars, at a projected nearly $1.58 billion for the state’s 50,115 providers serving nearly 725,000 children.

What the American Rescue Plan did

The American Rescue Plan provided $24 billion to stabilize the struggling child care industry. Federal officials believe that aid provided more than 220,000 child care providers — both center-based and home-based — help that let them stay open or reopen so that parents could work. The White House release said 1 in 3 providers said they would have closed permanently without the help. And the President’s Council of Economic Advisers reported that “mothers’ employment recovered more quickly in areas with greater child care capacity supported” by the rescue plan’s grants.

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In September, as the so-called “child care cliff” approached when the American Rescue Plan funding ended, Deseret News reported that the federal money allowed care providers to pay workers, cover utility costs and mortgages, buy personal protective equipment and meet other needs.

Without the funding, Murray said child care providers are staring down impossible choices.

Per that Deseret News article, “The New York Times cited a survey by The National Association for the Education of Young Children conducted in October 2022 that found 43% of child care center directors and owners said they’d have to raise tuition when the grants end Sept. 30. And 27% said they’d end up cutting wages, 22% said they’d lose staff, 18% said they’d serve fewer children and 16% predicted the need to cut staff benefits.”

Neera Tanden, assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council, called the supplemental funding proposal a “win, win, win for the economy.” She said it’s vital for women’s economic security and also to ensure children are ready to learn. When kids don’t have high-quality care, they’re less prepared for school, she said.