AUSTIN (KXAN) — Childcare advocates in Texas, where more than 4,000 childcare facilities have closed since February, say remaining federal coronavirus relief funds should be used to support the struggling industry.
Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) hosted a town hall along with the nonprofit CHILDREN AT RISK Wednesday focusing on childcare as a means for economic development and recovery.
Texas was awarded $371,663,374 as part of the CARES Act approved by the U.S. Congress in March. Of that, $171 million has yet to be distributed, which childcare advocates say could be used to support facilities facing permanent closure.
30% of childcare facilities in Texas were closed as of July 31, according to state data.
“Childcare, people oftentimes just think of it as an extension of school,” Anchia told KXAN. “But they don’t think of it as economic development.”
Anchia is calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to distribute the remaining CARES Act funds immediately. He asked the Texas Workforce Commission to re-imagine how quality childcare is delivered throughout the state.
The childcare industry had an economic impact of $8.7 billion in Texas in 2016, according to data provided by CHILDREN AT RISK.
Mandi Kimball, vice president of the organization, said economic recovery will be stunted without further support for childcare facilities in the state.
“It can’t all be put on the burden of working families, particularly low-income working families who are oftentimes still trying to have those two jobs, many who are our frontline workers,” Kimball said.
Sprouting Star Children’s Academy in Pflugerville has been forced to close several times during the pandemic for a total of 60 days. The company received a federal loan through the Paycheck Protection Program but is still struggling to stay afloat.
President John Russo said added costs to meet safety guidelines threaten the company’s survival.
“To be truthful, it’s not looking too good right now,” Russo said.
Whether relief funds will be provided for childcare facilities, or if it will be in time to save the industry, is an unknown. The Texas Capitol remains closed during the pandemic and Texas House of Representatives rules prevent committees from conducting business virtually.