EC Sector Areas of Need & Philanthropic Opportunities During the Pandemic

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Updated May 5, 2020 РThe COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the fragility of our nation’s early childhood and care policies and systems, and widened and deepened the disparities in health, education, child care and basic needs among families with young children.  ECFC has prioritized the role of funders in responding to the basic/immediate needs of grantees and families in their communities, while looking to long-term sustainability strategies partnering philanthropy and public funding to ensure a more equitable and sufficient post-pandemic response to the early childhood and child care needs.

Guiding Principles for EC Funders During the Pandemic 

[View our full analysis for details]

  • Ask Grantees and Other Community Organizations What They Need
  • We Need Both/And Strategy Between Advocacy and More Direct Responses
  • Target Investments for Impact and Supplement (not replace) Public Response
  • Flexible Philanthropic Practice is Key
  • This Will Be a Marathon, Not a Sprint (A.K.A. What Comes Next?)

Keeping our guiding principles in mind, the following are some areas of need in the early childhood sector that we heard from the EC Secor that early childhood funders may wish to consider.  Additional or different needs may have emerged over time. [Printer-Friendly Version]

Areas of EC Sector Needs

Keeping our guiding principles in mind, the following are some areas of need in the early childhood sector that we heard from the EC Secor that early childhood funders may wish to consider.  Additional or different needs may have emerged over time.  [Click headings to view analysis below or download our Printer-Friendly Version]

Advocacy around equitable approaches to the public investment response

   There are immediate Federal public investments planned through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and other economic stimulus packages.  We know from previous financial crises that responses were highly inequitable and more relief was available to those with voices at the table.   Now more than ever, we need to have advocates and community members fighting for a fair public investment response.  If the public resources flow to low-income communities and providers, this will do more to support them than all the philanthropy resources available.

¬†¬†Early childhood advocates at the national and state levels,¬†state affiliates of the Center on Budget and Policy¬†Priorities, family¬†and medical leave advocates, and community organizers will all be mobilizing.¬†¬†This is an opportunity for early childhood funders to build bridges with funders working across a variety of social safety net issues.¬†¬†¬†Funders can add funding to these efforts ‚Äď by enhancing grants you already have with trusted grantees.¬†¬† ECFC will try to keep you apprised of more opportunities as they become available.

Support for home-based providers

  Home based providers may not be eligible for some of the relief that will come to center-based providers.   In addition, home -based child care may be critical to the response that will require smaller groups of contact and for COVID response workers, longer hours and shifts at atypical times.

  • Home Grown¬†Funders Collaborative¬†‚ÄstThis philanthropic collaborative,¬†focused on home-based care providers is,¬†working on COVID responses for home-based child care.¬†¬†¬†Home Grown‚ÄĮwill support communication and information sharing around the distinct needs of licensed family providers and facility, friend and neighbor providers during this crisis and will support local and national funders in considering how emergency funding can include‚ÄĮand support home-based providers. We encourage ECFC members to join their mailing list (via¬†their¬†website)‚ÄĮand to share needs and ideas¬†([email protected]).
  • National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)¬†‚Äď Will advocate to be sure that in-home care workers are covered in public relief efforts.¬† NDWA has also established a Coronavirus Care Fund for people who need direct assistance.

Emergency Child Care

   Cities and states across the country are concerned about providing child care for first responders, medical personnel, and non-medical personnel critical to response, including cleaning and support employees, and employees at pharmacies, grocery stores, etc.   There may be funds available for this from public sources, including emergency appropriations and Child Care and Development Fund flexibilities. In the meantime, this care is specialized and may cost more.   Sustaining existing child care is also key to equitable community recovery (Related: Want to Support Your Community’s Equitable Recovery from COVID-19? Invest in Child Care)

¬†¬†These will likely be local opportunities, in conjunction with resource and referral agencies and state or local governments.¬†¬†Here are some considerations:¬†Contribute to ‚Äúhazard pay‚ÄĚ for providers who remain open, covering 1.5-2x their usual rate; Pay for cleaning supplies and deep cleaning as needed; Identify, recruit, and pay for telehealth services for those needing trauma related therapy in the short or long-term; Cover the cost of substitutes as needed;¬†¬† Create a grant or loan program to cover costs needed to keep providers in business if they are closed (cover mortgage or rent costs, utility bills,¬†etc.)¬†If you need help connecting to the efforts in your local community, we may be able to help.¬†¬†ECFC is tracking state and local EC and child care related emergency funds with private philanthropy involvement. ¬†To share information on related funds set up in your community or state, email ECFC.

Support for vulnerable families

  Families, particularly low-income and hourly wage earners, will be the first to feel the pain of COVID-19’s economic impacts and will feel that pain most acutely.  Families are already reporting mass layoffs.  Essential workers are spending cash on babysitters for school age children that they would normally have used for household expenses. While food may be available through food programs and distribution sites, families face reduced income for household expenses like housing, medication, and transportation.  Families with babies who had received formula and diapers through child care are already reporting inability to access these vital resources.  Advocates and public officials are working to make the social safety net keep up with these changing times, but at best there will be a lag while new public funds are dedicated, and new distribution channels are developed.

Local community foundation COVID-19 response funds; local nonprofits that provide emergency financial assistance; utilizing existing grantees to disseminate resources to known, impacted families.

Advocacy & Implementation for Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family and Medical Leave

  This is a new and powerful moment in the movement to secure paid sick days and paid family and medical leave (PFML) for families.  Now is the time to harness new policies from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, to benefit families and look toward permanent policy solutions.  While these new paid leave programs are limited, they represent a significant opportunity to get help to eligible workers AND broaden constituencies for future gains in permanent paid leave laws for working families.


  • Continued advocacy with both governments and large business to get more comprehensive and equitable coverage of paid leave –¬†Advocates need an infusion of support to get more coverage (e.g. long term medical leave was not covered) and equitable responses into future national COVID legislation, corresponding State initiatives, and directly with large corporations who are not required to provide paid sick leave or paid family leave under the Covid-19 leave law.
  • Outreach, education and base building –¬†Organizations will need to help low-income families access and utilize the new paid sick and family leave programs. Then, they are working to capture and tell those stories and engage those individuals in the grassroots base for paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave.¬† The beneficiaries of these temporary COVID-19 leave provisions can be added to the base of voters who will fight for more permanent paid sick days and paid family and medical leave policies.
  • Implementation support – We need to pivot quickly to ensure that crisis programs are responsive and roll out well.¬† The implementation of these new paid leave policies needs to go well to help the most vulnerable people AND to generate stories about what difference can be made if we build broader, more durable paid leave policies.


  • Paid Leave for All Campaign:¬†Immediate funds (both C3 and C4) are needed to continue the Federal advocacy in COVID response bills, while building up capacity on the education/outreach/base-building on the need for sustained paid sick days law and a social insurance systems to address paid family and medical leave. ¬†Steering Committee members in Paid Leave for All are here.¬†¬† Paid Leave for All also has an implementation working group chaired by CLASP and A Better Balance to work quickly with state officials and state advocates in providing technical assistance, outreach to families, and base building. Interested funders can contact Dawn Huckelbridge.
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave Fund:¬†The New Venture Fund at Arabella Advisors hosts a pooled fund for strategic investment in paid family and medical leave focused on broadening support and new constituencies (with a special matching funding in supporting racial equity and racial justice groups), building bipartisan support, and providing rapid response support to the paid family and medical leave field. Interested funders can contact Shelley Waters Boots.
  • Arabella Advisors also hosts the donor table for paid family and medical leave, which is open to any donor interested in funding investments in this policy area. Contact Andrew Peters for more information.

Advocating & Investing in Equity for Immigrant Families

[Download the full Need/Opportunity Brief]

WHY?:  Twenty-five percent of children under six have a parent who is an immigrant and the overwhelming majority of those children are U.S. citizens. Twenty percent of the people who provide early learning services are themselves immigrants. Immigrant families often experience inequity because they have less access to safe work, fair and steady pay, prenatal care, maternity leave and other basic opportunities to strengthen families. As a result, children of immigrants represent a disproportionate share of children living in poverty.
The Coronavirus pandemic adds to these health and economic disparities. For example, immigrants represent a large share of frontline workers responding to the pandemic (e.g., home health aides, grocery store cashiers, pharmacy clerks), yet they are half as likely to have health insurance. Similarly, immigrants ‚Äď many of them parents – were over-represented in industries hardest hit by the pandemic (e.g., hotels, restaurants, cleaning services, childcare and nail and hair salons) and many are now experiencing mass layoffs.¬† Many immigrants, including some with permanent residency also known as green cards, do not qualify for safety-net programs like food stamps and key parts of the federal relief bills exclude mixed-status households and other immigrant families from some forms of relief, making private action more crucial.

  • Advocacy for equity and immigrant families‚Äô access to resources.
  • Investment in disaster relief assistance for children of immigrants.
  • Outreach, education, and case management.


  • National Advocacy
  • State Advocacy
  • State and Local Disaster Relief Programs
  • Support to Immigrant-Serving Organizations

Photo credit: CovidinChildCare

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