Before anyone had heard of the coronavirus, America’s child care system was dependent on families paying unaffordable sums and providers making poverty-level wages. Years of under-investment had left child care programs in the United States operating on thin margins and shaky ground.

The pandemic exacerbated these inequities and eroded an already fragile system. Over 350,000 child care jobs disappeared and more than a year later, 1 in 8 of those jobs have not yet returned. These job losses predominantly affect women, and disproportionately women of color, who are the vast majority of the child care workforce. For families, the disappearance of child care options has left many children without stable and high-quality settings and pushed many parents, especially mothers, out of the labor force.

To support economic recovery, lawmakers have the opportunity to invest in an equitable system that supports children’s healthy development, helps families achieve economic security, and ensures the essential workers who care for and educate children every day are paid a living wage.

This fact sheet covers why mandatory child care dollars are essential to building the long-term system that we need.