Real help, right now: The Pennsylvania Emergency Childcare Act

As school districts across Pennsylvania turn to remote virtual learning to mitigate community spread of COVID-19, millions of school-aged children with working parents will need access to full-day childcare. Parents who work essential frontline jobs and careers may face the impossible choice between losing employment or paying for childcare.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Childcare Act would help these families pay for safe and reliable childcare so that they can stay employed, continue to power Pennsylvania’s economic recovery and help keep the commonwealth safe, fed and healthy.

PECA currently comprises bills to expand qualifications for childcare subsidies to families with income above the current threshold for coverage under the Child Care Works Program and to create a grant program specifically to support parents working essential jobs across Pennsylvania. The package also includes updates to laws covering maternity leave, mother and child health, assistance with necessities and more. Improved programs and support sought in the bills would ultimately help parents meet the needs of their pre-school and school-age children throughout the pandemic and navigate the world of virtual learning.

House Bill 2809, sponsored by state Rep. Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery, would establish a grant program to help defray the cost of childcare for Pennsylvania’s essential workers. These workers, due to the nature of their occupations, are required to be on the job. For many of these workers, the cost of full day childcare is prohibitively expensive, and this bill would provide them direct relief and options to find care quickly.

House Bill 2810, also sponsored by Rep. Hanbidge, would establish a grant program to reimburse childcare costs incurred as a result of COVID-19 for parents and caretakers who are not eligible for the Child Care Works Program. Child Care Works currently helps low-income families pay their childcare fees.

House Bills 2629 and 2630, both sponsored by state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia, and state Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, would directly support child care, pre-school and home care providers by ensuring that they continue to receive funding or at levels pre-dating COVID-19 contingencies, receive free training to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, receive additional funding based on enrollment to go toward properly cleaning and sanitizing throughout the pandemic. The bills also would earmark general fund dollars for a childcare grant program for families to use as emergency needs arise.

House Bills 1942 and 1932, sponsored by state Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Philadelphia, and state Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York, would provide diapers for families struggling with other expenses as they arise from the continued pandemic. Specifically, House Bill 1932 would establish a grant program to improve, enhance and expand access to clean diapers for infants, children and incontinent adults through outreach programs, volunteer training and fundraising assistance. House Bill 1942 would give the Department of Human Services the ability to help certain low-income individuals buying diapers for children 36 months of age and younger. Both proposals are important steps forward to protecting the health of all the children and incontinent adults in our state. 

House Bill 2192, sponsored by Rep. Hanbidge, would keep BPA out of food and beverage containers intended for infants, including baby food containers, baby bottles, and similar items. In addition, any substance used in place of BPA would not be permitted to include carcinogens or reproductive toxicants as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

House Bill 1177, sponsored by Rep. Daley, ensure private, sanitary space for exempt and non-exempt employees to express milk for up to one year after birth of a child.

Legislation to be numbered, sponsored by state Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, to provide a childcare tax deduction from the state income tax. The proposal is for dollar-for-dollar tax deduction up to $10,000 annually to help offset the cost of child care. While this deduction will not eliminate the cost of childcare, it is a step toward helping families meet their financial obligations.

Legislation to be numbered, sponsored by Rep. Fiedler, to direct unallocated CARES Act funding to essential child care providers in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is sitting on over $1 billion in unallocated Coronavirus Relief Funds provided to us to help with COVID-19 relief efforts. Some child care providers have already determined they won’t be able to reopen their doors.

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