June 10, 2020 / 9:23 PM / 22 days ago

U.S. Chamber joins groups seeking more coronavirus aid for childcare providers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday joined a chorus of groups urging Congress to aid childcare providers who face higher costs and decreased capacity as businesses start reopening after coronavirus lockdowns.

In a letter sent to all members of Congress, the influential business lobby said that without help, more childcare providers will close, leaving parents fewer options to return to work and keep their children safe.

“The existing childcare arrangements for many working parents have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout,” the chamber and its state affiliates wrote.

“To ensure that more Americans can quickly return to work and to support our nation’s overall economic recovery, Congress should provide timely, targeted, and temporary emergency assistance to licensed childcare centers and homes.”

Social distancing and other coronavirus-curbing guidelines are likely to reduce capacity, raise costs and lead to operating losses, the letter said.

The National Association for the Early Education of Young Children also has urged here Congress to make new investments in childcare programs.

The Paycheck Protection Program, a small business loan program passed by Congress, helped only about a quarter of childcare providers, the group said. Home-based childcare providers have been particularly hard hit, with PPP loan approval rates as low as 23%.

The First Five Years Fund, which supports early childhood education, in May asked here Congress for direct grants and other financial support to cover higher fixed costs, lost revenue during shutdowns, and new protective equipment and supplies.

The plight of childcare providers did not come up during U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s testimony on Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee. But Mnuchin said he believed the next coronavirus aid bill should target sectors struggling to reopen. [nL1N2DN0WB]

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Richard Chang

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