A longtime champion and supporter of early education and childcare, Senator Sal DiDomenico has recently continued to prioritize addressing the challenges this industry is facing during the COVID emergency. He and his staff have recently attended and participated in several childcare meetings and briefings, learning about the specific hardships that providers and parents are facing. “Like many industries, the early childhood education and care industry is in a crisis right now that can’t be ignored,” explained Senator DiDomenico. “Many families, especially those with vulnerable essential workers in them, need this critical care more than ever right now but the resources are just not there.”
Among the briefings attended by the senator was the Boston Child Care Legislative Briefing on October 14th, in which staff from several childcare organizations, including Nurtury Early Education, spoke to legislators about the many challenges they are facing and their current needs.
Senator DiDomenico was also a guest speaker at the regional Massachusetts Association of Early Education & Care (MADCA) meeting on Friday, October 16th. There, he spoke of how he’s been hearing from many providers that are currently struggling, with some even operating at as low as 51% capacity. Among the challenges being seen are increased staffing shortages and retention issues. New COVID regulations have forced providers to hire more staff in response to child-to-staff ratio changes, while some current staff members are not able to come into work because they have their own children who are required to be at home.
“In a workforce where one-third of individuals rely on childcare to successfully work, it is crucial that we invest in our early education and childcare facilities to help keep our economy running,” said DiDomenico. “It would be helpful for employers to get more involved in the field either through investment in support for their workforce, or partnerships with philanthropy and public entities to advocate for systemic change. As legislators, we have provided much needed funding through various bills and budgets to help support early education providers through the COVID emergency, and we also must continue to do our part and provide funding and resources to these organizations who are providing this essential service.”
The Senator has been a longtime champion of early education and care throughout his tenure in the Massachusetts Senate. In 2013, DiDomenico played a key role in the creation of an Early Education and Out of School Time (EEOST) capital fund that provided $45M in loans and grants to early learning centers and out-of-school-time programs serving low-income families. For the first time, this fund affirmed the positive impact that high quality early education makes in children’s lives and in the economic development of the Commonwealth. To date, the fund has assisted more than 20 programs throughout the state, increasing capacity by adding nearly 450 slots to the early education and care system, improving the quality of learning for over 2,000 children, creating full-time educator jobs, leveraging $44 million in additional investments from foundations, banks, and other sources. The Senator continues to champion this fund in the Massachusetts Legislature to this day.
Most recently, Senator Sal DiDomenico successfully secured $10 Million for COVID-19 Preparedness and Stabilization Grants to provide much needed support to Massachusetts afterschool and out-of-school time programs. These grants will provide funding to form community partnerships, workforce training and health and safety expenses necessary to adequately prepare for the 2020-2021 school year amidst COVID-19. As the Legislature begins crafting a state budget for the current fiscal year and considers COVID related legislation, Senator DiDomenico continues to make early education and care one of his top legislative priorities.