State Still Has $170 Million in Federal Funding to Spend On Childcare Help

( – Wisconsin Republicans have vehemently opposed the use of state surplus funds to continue a childcare subsidy program that was introduced during the pandemic. The program would have taken $300 million from the state’s $7 billion surplus. However, the Republican majority Assembly would not budge and removed the plan from Democratic Governor Tony Evers’ budget proposal. Evers blasted the Republicans, stating that they needed to “get serious about solving our problems,” adding that continuing the program is the “right thing for our kids and families, our workforce, and our state.”

To keep the program running through June 2025, Evers announced that he would allocate $170 million given to the state from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during the pandemic. The program, called Child Cares Counts, was launched nationwide in 2020 to provide money for the retention of staff, in addition to paying for curriculum, utility bills, and rent at childcare facilities. Close to 5,000 providers were awarded a portion of the $600 million that Wisconsin received, which funded the program for three years.

The program is due to expire in January 2024, which could result in childcare facilities shuttering, but could also lead to fewer children having access to early learning. Democrats in the U.S. Congress have introduced legislation to continue funding the program, which could be included in a future continuing resolution or a December omnibus bill. Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin also introduced legislation during its special session. Their measure would continue providing funding for childcare providers, but lawmakers also included funding for higher education, a workforce development program, and a provision for paid family leave. A recent report from Forward Analytics, a research division of the Wisconsin Counties Association, said that many people will drop out of the workforce if they are unable to afford childcare. Tuition would undoubtedly increase if childcare providers do not receive subsidies. Nationwide, nearly 70,000 childcare providers could end up closing if the program is not renewed on a federal or state level.

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