BlogUnder 3 DC Sends Christmas Eve Letter to Mayor Bowser with FY22 Budget List

December 24, 2020

Please do not make cuts to child care, early childhood health, or safety net programs that serve DC families. Instead, we request you protect existing funding, at a minimum, and invest $60 million in FY22 to enable our child care sector -- and our District -- to have a strong and just recovery.

December 24, 2020 Letter to Mayor Bowser

Dear Mayor Bowser,

We write to implore you to protect funding for public goods that serve DC’s families raising infants and toddlers. Now is not the time for budget cuts, underfunding of services, or harmful reprogramming of subsidy dollars that could emaciate our early childhood systems. Such actions would only hinder the District’s economic recovery; exacerbate inequality in the city; and further compound COVID-19 related suffering for DC families, especially Black and Latinx families.

The Under 3 DC Coalition includes more than 40 early childhood education associations, child care providers, medical organizations, and community-based groups, collectively representing hundreds of educators, parents, health professionals, and concerned citizens across the District. 

We are committed to creating and sustaining a high quality and equitable early childhood system to meet DC families’ needs. The experiences during a child’s first three years of brain development last a lifetime. As educators, health care providers, and parents–our coalition members–see this first hand every day. They also see a disconnected and underinvested early childhood system that is struggling to survive right now. Your recently announced $2.8 million grant package for child care, while appreciated, is woefully insufficient to meet the needs of the moment; we also worry a potential new federal package for child care will not go far enough.

The City’s Child Care Sector

To meet the severity of the crisis befalling our child care providers, we urge the District to add $60 million to OSSE’s budget in FY22 to enable increased payments to child care operators participating in the subsidy program. Any Child Care and Development Block Grant funds coming down from the federal government may help tide providers over for winter and spring months but they will not go far enough to last the sector until FY22. For that reason, w e believe use of local reserves for non-cash flow reasons and other available federal relief funding should prioritize child care first and foremost in future business recovery grants.

Providers Need Help Now to Continue Operating 

We cannot wait until the next fiscal year–after too many care settings will have closed–to solve this crisis. Providers need help now to continue operating. With our coalition members bracing for lowered enrollments for the foreseeable future, OSSE’s child care investments in the current fiscal year and FY22 must increase to allow for higher per-child reimbursement rates and fund other financial support to stabilize this vital industry; federal dollars should be used to supplement, not supplant, these expenses. We are pleased to see the District making moves to implement a higher subsidy rate as the pandemic drags on. Still, we believe this change should be permanent beyond the pandemic to account for long-term under-enrollment impacts, and to move in the direction of raising care quality and pay for early educators.

Core Early Childhood Programs Are Lifelines Right Now for Families  

Additionally, as you prepare your FY22 and revised FY21 budget, we implore you to avoid cuts to the District’s core programs and services for infants and toddlers such as Healthy Steps, Healthy Futures, Help Me Grow, and home visiting. These programs are lifelines right now for families experiencing increased stress and child development concerns stemming from economic insecurity and prolonged social isolation. More broadly, the District should avoid cuts to programs like paid family leave, early intervention, WIC, TANF, SNAP, and housing services because these programs provide vital services to at-risk families, and Black and brown families in particular. Instead of sweeping any unspent prior year funds from early childhood health programs, we urge you to carry those dollars forward into FY22, so there is no disruption in health services vulnerable families are counting on.

Cuts now to vital programs that serve the education, development, and health of infants, toddlers, and families will create suffering for years to come. Likewise, allowing our child care supply crisis to worsen by underinvesting in it will tie our hands as we work to fully reopen the economy, disrupting critical learning years, and creating impossible choices for working parents.

Please do not make cuts to child care, early childhood health, or safety net programs that serve DC families. Instead, we request you protect existing funding, at a minimum, and invest $60 million in FY22 to enable our child care sector — and our District — to have a strong and just recovery.

The Under 3 DC Coalition

Under 3 DC

Under 3 DC, a broad based coalition in the District of Columbia, harnesses the voices and power of parents with young children, early educators, advocates, and health professionals to create transformative social change. The Coalition’s efforts center on the people experiencing racial and economic injustice every day. It shines a spotlight on the need for more public investments to support families with infants and toddlers. Together, we can set the city on a path to creating and sustaining a high quality, equitable early childhood system.

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