The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan’s funding for child care businesses — a total of almost $78 million for New Hampshire — promises to prop up a struggling industry, but parents and advocates expect the bill’s tax credits will have the most tangible impact on families.
“Food on the table, being able to put gas in the car,” said Korin Suarez, a Franklin mother of six, during a Tuesday video meeting with Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., and child-care providers about the stimulus bill. “A big one for my family would be getting me back into the workforce.”
Suarez said she needs at least part-time child care to hold a job. Even working from home isn’t tenable, she said, with six children at home.
Middle-income families making too much to qualify for child care scholarships, but who still struggle to afford care, will certainly benefit, said Marianne Barter, director of Merrimack Valley Day Care in Concord.
Barter said the tax credit would help many families pay for basic needs — even food — and help people save for an emergency like a car breakdown.
“We have huge populations of families that are one car repair away from losing everything,” Barter said.
“It’s amazing that, on a federal level, they’re really acknowledging that child care needs to have a funding source outside parents,” Barter said. “We might be turning a corner. This might be the best thing that happens to child care in a long time.”
But a few hundred dollars per month per child is still not enough to pay for child care, cautioned Jackie Cowell of Early Learning NH, a child care advocacy group. Care can cost hundreds per child, per week, she said.
The state’s child care businesses are expecting another round of aid.
New Hampshire is projected to get almost $48 million from the American Rescue Plan to prop up floundering child care businesses, and another $30 million to help the industry in the longer term.
Cowell said New Hampshire’s businesses have lost tens of millions of dollars since the pandemic began, and parents began pulling children out of day care.
Yes, federal stimulus dollars will help the struggling businesses. But Cowell isn’t celebrating just yet.
“I’m not sure it’s enough, even though it sounds like a lot,” Cowell said.
The state has yet to start distributing the money made available in the December stimulus bill. Cowell said Wednesday was the deadline for child care centers to apply for a piece of the $20 million in aid, and she expected about 500 businesses to apply.