MADISON, Wis. (WMDX) – It’s not unusual to see kids at the state capitol during the summer on field trips, but on Tuesday, dozens of children were there for a different reason.
A rally was held by Wisconsin Early Childhood Action Needed, or WECAN, to show support for the Child Care Counts program.
Republicans who control the state legislature’s budget-writing committee voted against extending funding for the federal child care program during an overnight session late last week. The 11-4 vote by the Joint Finance Committee puts an end to Child Care Counts, which was started during the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to increase providers and services for child care centers around the state. The program is set to expire this year.
Attending the rally were legislators, including state Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) and Rep. Greta Neubauer (D-Racine), the minority leaders in both of Wisconsin’s legislative houses.
Organizers said that about a quarter of child care providers across Wisconsin would be closing their doors, with others increasing tuition rates, without the program.
Neubauer said the program is “essential” and that the workforce in Wisconsin depends on it.
“By letting this program lapse, the Republican legislators on the Joint Finance Committee are failing the people of Wisconsin,” Neubauer said. “Child Care Counts helps families afford quality child care so parents can go to work and put food on the table.”
Agard called for the Joint Finance Committee to fund the program.
“Folks want to go to work, they want to take care of their families,” Agard said. “But accessing child care… is a barrier for many people in Wisconsin.”
Democratic legislators are planning an amendment to the budget that would provide $340 million to fund the program.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that according to Gov. Evers, the program sent $378 million to 4,345 child care providers, which helped to pay for about 22,000 workers and care for about 113,000 children.
Republicans instead voted for increasing the funding for programs run by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, including a $15 million fund to distribute loans to child care providers.