State Guidebook for Measuring Progress Toward Equitably Supporting Child Care Stabilization

Research BriefCOVID-19Sep 28 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic caused major hardships for child care providers and families with young children, leading an already fragile early care and education (ECE) system to the brink of collapse. Approximately two thirds of child care providers were closed in April 2020, and one third remained closed as of April 2021[i] due to financial instability from temporary closures and/or lower enrollment.[ii] This meant that the underpaid child care workforce—which disproportionately includes Black and Hispanic women, and other[1] women of color and immigrant women[iii]—was one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic. As of June 2022, child care employment nationwide remains down nearly 10 percent compared with February 2020.[iv]

Families with young children faced economic hardship and additional barriers to working due to decreased access to child care during the pandemic. In particular, Black and Latino families disproportionately faced economic hardships,[v] and Black parents were more likely to report that they were unable to look for work because they couldn’t find child care.[vi] Families with low incomes, families living in rural areas, families with infants and toddlers, and families with a child with disabilities—who often lacked access to child care even before the pandemic—faced additional barriers during the pandemic.[vii] The disproportionality of access to child care, exacerbated during the pandemic, means that not all communities were affected to the same degree. This requires states, territories, and Tribal leaders[2] to think strategically about how to allocate emergency recovery funding to benefit the families and providers who need the most support.

Since March 2020, Congress has allocated over $52 billion to states to help stabilize child care and support families with young children through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act; and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The COVID-19 relief funding for child care from ARPA included approximately $24 billion for stabilization grants to help ECE programs remain open or reopen and $15 billion for supplemental funding for Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) activities; these are not restricted to the COVID-19 response and can be used to support a variety of activities, such as expanding access to child care assistance, expanding outreach on the availability of child care assistance, providing mental health supports for child care providers and children in their care, and supporting vaccinations.,[viii] [ix] federal relief funds for child care was to financially support ECE programs to avoid additional closures and to ensure that more families didn’t have to reduce their work hours or leave their jobs due to lack of child care.

States have had to distribute their child care relief funds relatively quickly.[3],[x] While, broadly, the distribution of stabilization funds is well underway, states are at various stages of distribution.[xi], [xii] Additionally, several states have yet to announce their plans for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)discretionary funding.[xiii] As states continue to distribute their child care relief funds, they are seeking to articulate their goals, understand whether these funds have equitably supported child care providers and families, and plan for addressing remaining gaps and challenges.

This guide offers an approach that state early childhood system leaders can use to:

  • Define their child care stabilization goals (i.e., goals for stabilizing child care through the use of all federal COVID relief funds for child care) based on the unique context in their state.
  • Measure their progress toward meeting those goals, as well as their long-term efforts to increase equitable access to ECE.

More specifically, the guide offers a process for embedding equity and centering the perspectives of families and providers in making decisions about child care stabilization funding. State ECE leaders can use this guide to communicate to their state legislatures and the public about their progress toward child care stabilization, and to articulate what is still needed to strengthen their ECE systems.

This guide first provides foundational definitions for equity, ECE access, and stabilization to establish a common understanding of these key concepts. These terms are also used to articulate goals and strategies for measuring the allocation of COVID-19 relief funds for child care and measuring progress toward child care stabilization, using research-based principles of equity and access. Next, it lays out four steps for state ECE leaders:

  • Step 1: Describe the state context for recovery funds. This section provides several questions for states to consider prior to establishing goals for their child care recovery funds and/or measuring their progress. The questions can guide states in considering how contextual pieces of information—such as timelines of COVID-19-related policy and practice, state governance structures, and other ECE initiatives—might influence stabilization goals and measurement.
  • Step 2: Conceptualize the intended stabilization goals for COVID-19 child care recovery funding. This section offers several questions to help states determine their goals for stabilizing their child care system, within the context of the funding requirements. We also suggest several potential goals for providers and families and demonstrate how the goals align with a multi-dimensional definition of ECE access.
  • Step 3: Document policy changes and determine key policy questions. This section demonstrates how states can align policy decisions and policy questions to be explored with each of the suggested stabilization goals.
  • Step 4: Identify indicators and data sources to measure progress. This section provides guidance on measuring progress toward stabilization goals by identifying measurable indicators and data sources needed.

The four-step process outlined here will provide states with a better understanding of how stabilization funds have impacted families and ECE providers, and offer lessons on what further supports might be needed to expand equitable access to ECE.



[1] The 2018 Workforce Index does not define which races/ethnicities the category of “other” includes.

[2] Throughout this brief, we use the term states for simplicity with the intention of being inclusive of territories and Tribes. The authors recognize that, in some instances, some language and examples may not apply to Tribes or territories—for example, references to state legislatures or specific sub-populations of families or providers that may not always be relevant to Tribes or territories.

[3] All stabilization funds must be obligated by September 30, 2022 and liquidated by September 30, 2023. CCDF discretionary funds must be obligated by September 30, 2023 and liquidated by September 30, 2024.


[i] Lee, E. K., & Parolin, Z. (2021). The Care Burden during COVID-19: A National Database of Child Care Closures in the United States. Socius.

[ii] Child Care Aware. (2020). Picking Up the Pieces: Building a better child care system post COVID-19. Child Care Aware.

[iii] Whitebook, M., McLean, C., Austin, L.J.E., & Edwards, N. (2018). Early Childhood Workforce Index-2018. Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkley.

[iv] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey,

[v] Padilla, C. & Thomson, D. (2022). More than one-in-four Latino and black households with children are experiencing three or more hardships during COVID 19. Child Trends.

[vi] Zelazko,N., McHenry, K., and Smith, L. (2021). The future of work and the implications for child care. Bipartisan Policy Center.

[vii] Smith, K. & Gozjolko, K. (2010). Low income and impoverished families pay more disproportionately for child care. Carsey Institute, University of New Hampshire.; Paschall, K., Halle, T., & Maxwell, K. (2020). Early care and education in rural communities. OPRE Report #2020-62. Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.; Henly, J.R. & Adams, G. (2018). Increasing access to quality child care for four priority populations. The Urban Institute.

[viii] Girouard, D. (2021) Federal relief funds: State progress, Summer 2021. Child Care Aware of America.

[ix] Administration for Children and Families. (2021). Information memorandum ARP ACT CCDF Discretionary Supplemental Funds. CCDF-ACF-IM-2021-03. Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[x] Administration for Children and Families. (2021) Overview of ARP Act Child Care Stabilization Guidance. Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


[xii] Child Care Aware of America. State Tracker ARP Act Implementation. Viewed 8/8/2022:

[xiii] Ibid.

Suggested citation:

Banghart, P., King, C., & Daily, S. (2022). Guidance for states on measuring equitable allocation of COVID relief funds and progress toward child care stabilization. Child Trends.