As submitted by: JD Chesloff, President & CEO, Massachusetts Business Roundtable; Tom Weber, Executive Director, Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education to the Joint Committee on Ways & Means and the House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight on October 1, 2021

Chairman Rodrigues, Chairman Michlewitz, Chairman Hunt, and Members of the Committees, thank you for the opportunity to provide comments regarding the expenditure of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.  As the leaders of two business organizations, collectively representing more than 150 employers throughout the Commonwealth employing more than 400,000 people, we are writing to respectfully urge you to prioritize funding for childcare and early childhood education as you consider allocation of federal ARPA dollars.

It is no secret:  the child care industry is in crisis, which has been laid bare by Covid-19.  Massachusetts families face the highest child care costs in the country. According to the Center for American Progress, child care is currently costing Massachusetts families $436 per week, or about $22,600 per year, making the system inaccessible for the very people who need it most. Providers of early education and care, predominantly women and women of color, face a broken business model with increased costs, lower revenue, and monumental staffing challenges.  This has resulted in 10% of programs not reopening since the pandemic began, on top of a 25% decline in programs leading up to the pandemic.  And employees, seeking to return to the workplace, are unable to do so because of this lack of access to care, dramatically impacting women in the workplace.  In a survey we jointly conducted of employers, 91% indicated concern regarding the child care and school issues facing their employees, and 76% were deeply concerned about the impacts on women in their companies. Child care is the infrastructure necessary for people to return to work.

The Massachusetts Business Roundtable – a public policy organization comprised of CEOs and Senior Executive from large employers across the Commonwealth – has been advocating for early childhood education for decades, calling it a business development issue, a workforce development issue, and a necessary component of the current and future competitiveness of the Commonwealth.  More recently, the Roundtable helped launch the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education with the goal of making “early childhood education more accessible, affordable, and stable for Massachusetts workers, more rewarding for early childhood professionals, and a point of differentiation in attracting and retaining a strong workforce across the Commonwealth.” The Coalition is now 78 employers strong and has the support of 19 business associations from across the state. Both organizations have been engaging with the Department of Early Education and Care, as well as the Legislature’s Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, to help develop a long term, sustainable plan that supports a system of high-quality early education and care.

Other states are prioritizing ARPA dollars for child care.  For example, Pennsylvania recently announced it is dedicating $655M to “stabilize the child care industry, shore up their finances, recruit and retain early childhood professionals, and build capacity to serve more children, especially in communities where working families are struggling to access affordable child care options.” Michigan similarly is proposing to invest $1.4B in new federal funding to strengthen and expand its child care system.  The Massachusetts Legislature has similarly shown great support for early childhood education, and we are grateful for that support.

Prioritizing ARPA dollars for child care and early childhood education would help stabilize the current system and begin to build the infrastructure that reimagines how child care is delivered, how providers are supported, and how families can access high quality programming.  It will not only provide much needed relief to children and their families, child care providers, and workers looking to return to the workplace, but it will serve as a key enabler to the state’s economy, both now and into the future. 

Thank you for your consideration, and both of our organizations stand ready to work collaboratively with you and the child care field to ensure that Massachusetts has a high quality, affordable and accessible system of early education and care.