United Way Advocates for City of Boston to Invest Federal Relief Funds in the Early Childhood Sector

“We’ve witnessed the commitment and resilience of the childcare workforce as they are doing everything possible to remain open and provide safe, nurturing spaces for our youngest Bostonians.” 

United Way continues to advocate for responsible and sustainable investments in our communities as we collectively recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. 

During the May 27 hearing of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Boston’s COVID-19 Recovery, Karley Ausiello, Senior Vice President of Community Impact, urged city leaders to invest American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding in the early childhood sector. Ausiello spoke in support of early childcare workers, sharing the challenges the sector is facing and advocating for both high-quality early education and care and a well-compensated and supported childcare workforce.  

The Committee offers general oversight and recommendations on the City’s implementation and use of the City’s ARPA funding towards critical investments that support the city’s recovery from the economic impacts of the pandemic. At the hearing, members of Mayor Michelle Wu’s cabinet were on hand to discuss the administration’s ARPA funding proposals in the areas of economic inclusion, childcare, and arts and culture. 

“We all feel the weight of this moment in recognizing that this is one-time funding from the federal government and it needs to be transformative funding,” said Chair of the Committee, District 8 City Councilor Kenzie Bok. “We have to recognize really strategically where the City can make the biggest impact.” 

In her testimony, Ausiello noted that greater access to affordable, quality care will allow families and coworkers to remain in the workforce; connect children to enriching, developmentally appropriate learning and supports, and reduce the percent of household income spent on care. 

The $15 million proposed investments by the Mayor’s Office of Early Childhood lay the foundation for more accessible childcare and a more supported early childhood workforce. The investment to bring new family childcare providers into the field is especially important. Family childcare entrepreneurs, primarily women and immigrants, are an integral part of the early childcare ecosystem, though they do not receive the budgeting, rate setting and marketing business support that other entrepreneurs do.  

Family childcare providers serve economically disadvantaged children, and most are women of color, immigrants, single mothers, and/or on public assistance. Providing family childcare educators with pre-licensure support in their primary language, apprenticeship opportunities, and help in earning their associate degree will allow them to start strong, financially sound businesses and serve more families in the community. 

“Many [family childcare providers] speak a primary language other than English, which increases their ability to provide culturally responsive childcare, but decreases their access to support.” 

Ausiello discussed United Way’s Shared Services MA program as an example of the coordinated support that family childcare operators need for their micro businesses to thrive. In Boston, United Way partners with the City of Boston’s Childcare Entrepreneur Fund, training hundreds of family childcare educators throughout Boston on sound business practices, including developmental screening, creating budgets, managing enrollment, and building websites. Training sessions are provided in English and Spanish and will soon be offered in Portuguese. 

Ensuring that individuals enter the family childcare sector with the skills needed to serve their communities will strengthen the quality of care and increase availability, easing the burden placed on many families. 

Building up this workforce is also critical, as worker shortages are causing classrooms to close, even though the demand for childcare is exceedingly high. Recent reports from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, and the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission have all underscored the need for immediate investment in the early childcare sector across Massachusetts and the positive impacts it will have on childhood development and the strength of the economy. 

More family childcare workers will drive economic activity and bring economic stability to neighborhoods, with more parents working and spending money in the communities they serve.  

“At this crucial moment when transformative investment is in reach, I request that you ensure that childcare is included in the ARPA investment package and that it is fully funded.” 

The testimony in support of the childcare sector follows United Way President and CEO Bob Giannino’s participation in a panel of nonprofit leaders testifying in support of the human services nonprofit workforce during the May 3 meeting of the same committee.