Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Boost City’s Investment in Childcare Workforce

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Boost City’s Investment in Childcare Workforce

On July 6, the Alexandria City Council will vote to decide how nearly $56.4 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will be used. I urge City Council to devote a substantial portion of these funds to helping stabilize childcare programs in the city and improving the compensation paid to the city’s childcare professionals.

Hopkins House is an 82-year-old nonprofit childcare provider that offers safe, affordable childcare for Alexandria’s working and military families. Through the amazing commitment of our preschool educators and staff, Hopkins House has remained open and operating since the start of the pandemic more than 15 months ago – without a single reported case of COVID-19 infection among our students or preschool faculty.

The pandemic has vividly demonstrated that childcare professionals are the backbone of our economy. Even if you don’t have a young child of your own, you still depend on childcare for your basic needs. Postal workers can’t deliver the mail, grocery store clerks can’t stock food shelves, firefighters can’t save homes, police officers can’t stop crimes, pilots can’t fly planes, waiters can’t serve meals, and medical workers can’t save lives without a safe, affordable place for their children to stay while their parents are at work.

Childcare workers are the unsung heroes of this pandemic.

But, for far too long, we have undervalued our childcare professionals. In Alexandria, they work long hours and under very stressful conditions, only to earn from $11.65 to $14.67 per hour – far below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four.

Black women working in childcare, who too often find themselves at the intersection of racism, sexism, and economic inequality, are paid thousands of dollars less than their peers every year. The city now has a unique opportunity to undo past policy failures and race-based inequity.

A substantial portion of the ARPA funds granted to the city can and should be used to improve pay for Alexandria’s childcare professionals, including funding for basic health coverage, paid holidays, paid leave for vaccination-related illness or quarantining due to exposure to or contracting COVID-19, and paid leave to care for a family member suffering from the coronavirus – the same benefits already afforded to employees in most other occupations.

I urge the Mayor and members of City Council to use American Rescue Plan funds to substantially increase the city’s investment in its childcare workforce, Alexandria’s unsung heroes.

J. Glenn Hopkins

President and CEO

Hopkins House