When 2020 began, child care was already facing a tough dilemma. Teachers were underpaid and stretched thin, families were struggling to afford high-quality care, and child care programs were surviving on budgets with razor-thin margins. The pandemic has only worsened these strains. The problems were always there, but 2020 became the year that the world noticed that child care is in crisis.
As schools and businesses shut down in March, Governor Abbott asked child care centers to stay open to serve the children of essential workers. Many local programs heeded that call to action despite the many unknowns about virus mitigation, transmission, increased costs, decreased revenue, and long-term sustainability.
At the same time, our Success By 6 Coalition (SX6) began advocating for relief funding by contacting local officials, providing comment and testimony at meetings, and more. Many coalition members responded to the call for advocacy, and many leaders of local child care centers also emerged as leaders in advocating for their staff and families. The Austin City Council, in turn, allocated $5M+ child care relief funds, recognizing child care as a vital economic sector of the Austin economy. Austin is one of the only cities in the state providing substantial relief with local dollars for child care, thanks in part to powerful testimony from these local leaders.
Patsy Harnage has continued her advocacy, and was recently featured in an interview with KXAN sharing her support for essential child care workers receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Our advocacy has helped to keep the child care sector afloat while we weather the pandemic, but we’re not done yet. In fact, we need to keep building on this momentum and create sustainability in an undeniably essential sector. We need to invest in our future, and ensure that these essential workers - teachers and staff in our child care centers - are able to earn a living wage while caring for our communities’ youngest children during their most critical period of brain development. That's what United Way ATX is doing, in partnership with the Success By 6 Coalition. Together we’re ensuring that all kids in Greater Austin are happy, healthy, and ready to succeed in school and beyond.
To learn more about the child care dilemma, please:
- Watch and share this video from Austin PBS
- Sign up to receive “Advocacy Alerts” from the Success By 6 Coalition, and call your policy makers to action!
- Stay involved with the Success By 6 Coalition