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Ensuring Children and Child Care Workers Are Safe Act of 2020

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 16, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. BONAMICI. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 7909) to facilitate access to child care services safely and securely during the COVID-19 pandemic, as amended.

The Clerk read the title of the bill.

The text of the bill is as follows: H.R. 7909

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ``Ensuring Children and Child Care Workers Are Safe Act of 2020''. SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress finds the following:

(1) Child care is an essential service that supports children's early development and allows parents to work.

(2) At least 1 out of 2 child care providers closed at some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2 out of 5 face the possibility of permanent closure.

(3) The lack of access to child care services can prevent parents from returning to work and can prevent children from accessing critical services, including meals.

(4) Ensuring the safe re-opening and operation of child care service settings during periods of community transmission of COVID-19 will require child care providers to adopt new measures and practices in order to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission.

(5) Such measures and practices must ensure the safety of children as well as child care workers, who may be at high risk of infection.

(6) Ensuring that working families have access to safe child care service options is critical to supporting young children's development and to returning the economy back to its pre-pandemic levels. SEC. 3. TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE ON THE SAFE PROVISION OF CHILD CARE SERVICES.

(a) Technical Assistance to States.--

(1) In general.--The Secretary of Health and Human Services (in this Act referred to as the Secretary), in consultation with the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shall provide technical assistance to States, Indian Tribes, and tribal organizations related to the safe provision of child care services while there is community transmission of COVID-19. Such technical assistance shall include information about--

(A) the prevention of COVID-19 transmission in child care provider settings, including the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment in such settings,

(B) training and professional development on health and safety practices related to the prevention of COVID-19 transmission in child care provider settings,

(C) the acquisition and use of personal protective equipment, and

(D) modifications of child care provider settings and services to prevent COVID-19 transmission, such as optimal staff-to-child ratios across such settings and the use of mental health supports.

(2) Materials.--As part of such technical assistance efforts, the Secretary shall--

(A) publish educational materials related to the prevention of COVID-19 transmission in child care provider settings, including by posting such materials on a website,

(B) update any such materials as necessary to reflect advancements in the science of COVID-19, and

(C) provide a mechanism through which States may exchange best practices relating to the safe operation of child care providers.

(b) Technical Assistance to Child Care Providers.--

(1) In general.--The Secretary may make grants to lead agencies designated under section 658D(a) of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 9858b(a)) to provide guidance, technical assistance, and support to child care providers, either directly or through resource and referral agencies or staffed family child care networks, regarding the safe operation of child care providers while there is community transmission of COVID-19.

(2) Reservation.--The Secretary shall reserve 2.75 percent of funds appropriated to carry out this section to make payments to Indian Tribes, Tribal organizations, or consortia of Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations.

(3) Allotments.--From amounts appropriated to carry out this section and not reserved under paragraph (2), the Secretary shall allot to Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and to the remaining States amounts in accordance with subsections (a)(1) and subsection (b) of section 658O of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 9858m), except that none of such remaining States shall receive an allotment of less than $10,000.

(4) Requirements.--Each lead agency that receives a grant under this section shall ensure that--

(A) guidance, technical assistance, and support are available to child care providers regardless of such providers' settings, sizes, or administrative capacities, and

(B) guidance, technical assistance, and support are available in the languages most commonly spoken in the State, Indian Tribe, or Tribal organization.

(c) Report to Congress.--Not later than 60 days after funds are appropriated to carry out this Act, the Secretary shall provide to the Committee on Education and Labor of the House of Representatives and to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate a report that includes--

(1) recommendations for how to ensure the safe provision of child care services while there is community transmission of COVID-19, including recommendations that address each of the issues described in subparagraphs (A) through (D) of subsection (a)(1),

(2) recommendations for how to ensure the supply of child care services meets demand during periods when providers implement the recommendations described in paragraph (1), including whether it will be necessary to expand the number of child care providers to meet such demand and, if so, recommendations for how to expand the number of child care providers, and

(3) the estimated cost of implementing the recommendations described in paragraphs (1) and (2). SEC. 4. DEFINITIONS.

The terms ``State'', ``Indian Tribe'', and ``Tribal organization'' have the meanings given such terms in section 658P of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 9858n). SEC. 5. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act, $5,000,000 for fiscal year 2021. Funds appropriated to carry out this Act shall remain available until expended.
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Ms. BONAMICI. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 7909, the Ensuring Children and Child Care Workers Are Safe Act.

Access to high-quality, affordable childcare has always been fundamental to the well-being of families and children, so it is not surprising that childcare has emerged as one of the most urgent issues facing families and communities during this pandemic.

I have spoken with parents who are struggling with how you balance kids at home with work at home. I have heard from business owners, economic development leaders, and local elected officials who are worried about the workforce and the economy, and childcare has always been an important part of all of these conversations because it is a key factor in reopening our communities safely.

Many, and in some places most, childcare providers across the country were closed during the early months of the pandemic. But now, they are reopening and working hard to restore confidence and provide a safe place for the children in their care.

Unfortunately, providers have told us that they have received little direct guidance about how to modify their practices for COVID-19 to keep children, families, and workers safe and that the guidance they have received keeps changing and is oftentimes unrealistic. This makes it difficult for providers to rebuild and to serve the number of children they need to sustainably run their business and survive the pandemic.

It is worth noting that even before the pandemic, this industry operated on razor-thin margins and faced major difficulties.

According to a recent report from the American Institutes for Research and Early Edge California, of the 278 California childcare providers surveyed, 52 percent reported that it was too difficult to understand or follow new requirements during COVID-19, and 79 percent reported a significant need for guidance on how to implement new COVID- 19 health and safety protocols.

This important bipartisan bill before us today, introduced by my colleagues Representative Finkenauer and Representative Guthrie, will help meet this need by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to issue educational materials and guidance on how to provide childcare services safely during the pandemic.

Critically, this bill authorizes funding that will enable States to provide direct outreach, technical assistance, and support to childcare providers.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. BONAMICI. Madam Speaker, I thank my friend and colleague, Mr. Guthrie, for his kind remarks.

Madam Speaker, I yield as much time as she may consume to the gentlewoman from Iowa (Ms. Finkenauer), the author of this important bipartisan legislation.

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Ms. BONAMICI. Madam Speaker, may I please inquire how much time remains on each side.

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Ms. BONAMICI. Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee).

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Madam Speaker, I really thank the gentlewoman for her leadership on these issues. Thank you so very much for allowing me this time. As well, to the chairman of the committee, ranking member, and to Ms. Finkenauer and the gentleman from Kentucky, let me thank them for their leadership, and I thank the gentlewoman for the time.

Madam Speaker, let me indicate how important this legislation is. Twelve Utah childcare students were infected with COVID-19. They infected another 12; one of them was a parent who had to go to a hospital.

The Ensuring Children and Child Care Workers Are Safe Act of 2020 is vital and long overdue. This bill requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide educational materials and technical assistance to States related to the safe provision of childcare services during COVID-19.

With this bill, childcare facilities not only receive information on COVID-19 prevention, but also professional development for providers on health and safety, as well as guidance on the acquisition and use of personal protective equipment.

We heard this a lot in my district: No PPE.

It also instructs HHS to recommend additional steps to Congress about ensuring the safe provision and adequate supply of childcare during COVID-19, including whether and how to expand the supply of childcare to meet demand. There is a demand. It is crucial.

In addition, according to The Washington Post, before the coronavirus pandemic, approximately one-third of all children under age 5 attended a paid care facility, daycare center, preschool, or prekindergarten. In 2019, there were 15 million-plus children living with a single mother and approximately 3 million children living with a single father.

This is crucial because, as things open up, children and schools are all going to be intermingling, and these childcare workers are vital to what we do and how we provide for these hardworking parents and to protect these children.

And now we know. It has been disabused that at any point children are not infectious. That is no longer a fact. It is not a fact. It is not true. They are infectious and they can transmit COVID-19.

Let me take a moment to speak quickly to H.R. 2574, the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act of 2019.

That bill passed, but it restores the power of students and parents to challenge discriminatory policies and practices in schools and other federally funded programs. We know what happened to this young man who wanted to wrestle. What a humiliating situation when, on the wrestling floor, in the competition, a coach had to cut his hair off.

I ask my colleagues to support H.R. 7909.

I also rise to support H.R. 3659, Danny's Law, that deals with bullying, and, as well, H.R. 8162, 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act.

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues and ask my colleagues to support the legislation.

Madam Speaker, as a cosponsor and Founding Chair of the Congressional Children's Caucus, I rise in strong support of H.R. 7909, the ``Ensuring Child and Child Care Workers Are Safe Act of 2020,'' which requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide educational materials and technical assistance to states related to the safe provision of child care services during COVID-19. Despite their vital role during the pandemic, child care providers have received insufficient actionable guidance on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while providing high-quality care.

With this bill, child care facilities not only receive information on COVID-19 prevention but also professional development for providers on health and safety as well as guidance on the acquisition and use of personal protective equipment. It also instructs HHS to recommend additional steps to Congress about ensuring the safe provision and adequate supply of childcare during COVID-19, including whether and how to expand the supply of child care to meet demand.

As an increasing number of states open up and more individuals return to work, parents are relying on child care facilities once again, making the need for proper guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at child care services more essential than ever. As of this morning, the United States has over 6,606,859 cases of coronavirus and over 195,961 related deaths. Adequate and updated information is key to getting control over this disease, and we must ensure that this guidance is easily and readily accessible to all.

It is no secret that the child care sector provides an immense public value to our society and our economy. According to the Washington Post, before the coronavirus pandemic, approximately one-third of all children under age 5 attended a paid care facility, day-care center, preschool or prekindergarten.

Child care plays a crucial role in the lives of working parents, especially in single parent households. In 2019, there were about 15.76 million children living with a single mother and approximately 3.23 million children living with a single father in the United States. We must never forget that child care is often a lifeline to single, working parents that allows them to balance both their parenting and professional responsibilities.

I am proud to be a leader on this critical piece of legislation, and I urge my colleagues from both parties to join me in voting to pass H.R. 7909.

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Ms. BONAMICI. Madam Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Madam Speaker, I wish to once again thank Representatives Finkenauer and Guthrie for their leadership in crafting this urgently needed bipartisan bill and all of my colleagues who have spoken in support of the Ensuring Children and Child Care Workers Are Safe Act. This is such an important issue.

Today's children are tomorrow's leaders. This bill will help make sure that childcare providers who are entrusted with the health, safety, and development of our Nation's very future have the support they need to succeed.

I also want to note, as my colleague from Iowa noted, that the consideration of this bill comes after the House passage of the Child Care is Essential Act, which will provide $50 billion in direct grant funding to help childcare providers cover operating expenses, purchase PPE and cleaning supplies, pay providers through the pandemic and beyond, and, importantly, give struggling parents relief from high-cost copayments and tuition.

This is a good investment in our children, our families, our economy, and our future. I continue to urge Senator McConnell and the full Senate to take up the Child Care is Essential Act, as well as this excellent bipartisan bill.

Madam Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues to support the legislation before us today, H.R. 7909, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Ms. BONAMICI. Madam Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

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