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Report: Nearly 11,000 Nevada kids could lose access to child care as pandemic funds expire

After making strides to build child care capacity through pandemic-era funding, grant dollars sunset Saturday. Advocates urge renewal.
Naoka Foreman
Naoka Foreman
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Roughly 1,000 child care proponents from all 50 states are urging Congress this month to allocate at least $16 billion per year in emergency child care funding, warning of massive negative consequences for kids and their families and the economy as federal aid dries up. 

Pandemic-era funding poured $24 billion into child care stabilization grants to providers and $15 billion in supplemental Child Care and Development Fund Discretionary Funds through American Rescue Plan dollars; that funding sunsets Saturday. Nevada organizations such as Acelero Learning Head Start, Children’s Advocacy Alliance, Make It Work Nevada and The Children's Cabinet urged a funding renewal in a letter sent earlier this month.

“​​The influx of federal resources has allowed states to make long-deferred investments to make their child care assistance systems work more effectively for families and early educators,” members of the National Women’s Law Center wrote in the letter. “This progress — whether removing families from waiting lists for child care assistance, raising provider compensation, expanding eligibility for assistance, or lowering family co-payments — is now at risk.”

The letter says states will lose ground on the progress made to improve the child care system. In Nevada, former Gov. Steve Sisolak used a portion of the federal stimulus money allocated to the state to launch a one-time $50 million investment to expand child care subsidies to families with higher incomes, and to help fund child care hubs launched in Reno and Las Vegas in 2022 to support providers and boost availability.

Democrats in Congress, including Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), have introduced the Child Care Stabilization Act, which would extend the emergency child care funding for five years. But with the legislation yet to attract any Republican support, its prospects are dim in the current Congress.

Sydney Peterson of the National Women’s Law Center said she believes there’s been steady progress toward passing the act and that “President Joe Biden, through a White House spokesperson, has voiced his support for the legislation as well.”

Child care has been historically scarce in Nevada, where many ZIP codes have up to three kids waiting for every slot available for early childhood education. Even if care is available, it can cost families more than in-state college tuition.

Researchers project that a failure to make the $16 billion investment could amount to 3.2 million children losing child care across the U.S. 

According to a report by The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, nearly 11,000 children in Nevada are expected to lose child care benefits after Sept. 30 when the money runs out, and up to 203 programs in the state could close. Nevada was ranked on the low end for the number of children at risk of losing care compared with states such as Arizona, where almost 100,000 kids could lose access to child care and 1,149 programs could close.

Texas topped the list with nearly 306,000 children at risk of losing child care and almost 4,000 programs at risk of closing.

According to data, the child care sector has been slow to recover from the pandemic, and in Nevada, at least 755 job vacancies are expected after the funds sunset. 

The Century Foundation also projects that Nevada families will lose $30 million in earnings from leaving the workforce or cutting work hours to care for young children. The state is home to roughly 177,000 children younger than 5 years old.

The think tank also found that without emergency federal funds for child care, $28.8 million in “employer productivity,” or workplace output, could be lost.

Reporter Gabby Birenbaum contributed to this report.

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