Shaheen hopes COVID-19 relief will contain flexibility for childcare providers
By John Koziol
August 13, 2020
LITTLETON — Echoing remarks she made a month ago in the Lakes Region, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Thursday she remained optimistic that Democrats and Republicans will agree on another round of COVID-19 relief and that the new legislation will contain “flexibility” in how child-care providers are able to spend financial aid.
Shaheen met in the play yard of the Littleton Head Start with a dozen socially-distanced stakeholders from the Upper Valley and North Country to underscore the need for child-care support.
She conceded, however, that in the ongoing discussions, child care has not been “at the forefront,” even though it’s a key to getting the economy going again.
Party leaders have placed funding for state and local government and for schools at the top of the priority list, said Shaheen, followed by how the money allocated to them is spent.
“That’s one of the big stumbling blocks,” said Shaheen, while another is how to hold parties free of liability in the coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming federal elections.
In a dig at President Donald Trump, who has criticized mail-in voting, Shaheen, a Democrat, noted that in the Senate, “most of my colleagues agree” with the need to provide a broad a range of voting options.
As she did on July 14 in Laconia during a similar event at the Lakes Region Boys & Girls Club, Shaheen said she recognized that unless the federal government steps in, “a lot of (child-care centers) are going to close.”
Hearkening to her tenure as the Granite State’s governor, Shaheen said even then people knew that “if kids didn’t get what they need” from an early age on, that there will be an impact as they get older.
Shaheen said she understood that child-care centers have been “hit hard by the pandemic,” a situation she said was exacerbated by children who haven’t returned even after centers reopened.
“I am hopeful” for another, bipartisan COVID relief package, she said, “and that child care is a big part of that.”
Shaheen’s audience said more money will be helpful, as the cost of cleaning supplies and protective equipment continues to go up, and that staffing is also a major concern.
Child-care providers in the region were understaffed before the pandemic, they told Shaheen, and are operating now without prospects for bringing in new permanent or even replacement workers.
Shaheen acknowledged those concerns and later described the COVID relief talks in Washington D.C. as “fluid,” and suffused with discussion of “more flexibility” on how recipients spend the money they receive.
In June, Shaheen introduced the Child Care is Essential Act, which her office said would create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund “to stabilize the childcare sector and support providers in their efforts to safely reopen and operate and has continued to urge Senate leadership to act on the legislation”
In March, Shaheen introduced legislation to assist health care workers with child- and elder care, according to her office, “so that they can continue to treat patients during the pandemic.”