A $24 billion infusion from the American Rescue Plan has helped child care providers pay teachers and purchase much-needed supplies, easing the burden on both families and providers during the tumult of the COVID-19 pandemic. But things are about to change as those funds — distributed by the states as grants — are set to expire in just a few short months, leading to likely layoffs, higher tuition, and provider closures as we head into 2024.

How bad could the problem get? A new Century Foundation report finds that care for nearly 3 million children could soon be disrupted. That’s one-third of all children currently in the American child care system. As that stark reality has left state leaders scrambling for answers, one potential solution could be found in enhancing the capacity and efficiency at key state agencies.

Child care is an important economic driver, as access to high-quality, affordable early learning and child care is key to better educational, social, and economic outcomes for children — and to greater flexibility for parents aiming to participate in the workforce. Affordability, though, remains the critical missing link; according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the average annual cost of child care is over $10,000 per year, and more than one in ten families with children have had caretakers step away from jobs to care for children as a result.

Congress’s legislative attempts to address the child care crisis were short-term efforts that failed to take into consideration two significant issues: the fractured infrastructure of state agencies and their inability to effectively administer additional funding to implement meaningful change across the system.

Those able to use the funds in a timely manner allocated much of it to expand eligibility for subsidies and increase the amount of money families received. However, now that these pandemic-era subsidies are gone, many families no longer qualify for child care assistance, or will receive reduced amounts. If state agencies were given the time to improve capacity and infrastructure, the increased funding could have been managed more efficiently and invested in long-term solutions.

Read the full article about addressing the child care crisis by Nicole Norvell at The 74.