Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, D-Minn, along with 20 of their Democratic Senate colleagues, co-signed a letter urging the Office of Child Care within the Department of Health and Human Services to take additional steps to expand child care options for health care workers and others on the frontlines responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

The senators also advocated for providers by urging the Office of Child Care to provide critical guidance so centers that remain open know how to take appropriate action to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, and to share details of how the emergency funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant as part of the third COVID-19 response package will be used most effectively.

“Frontline workers are needed at their places of employment now more than ever, but in many cases do not have safe child care for their children. … We must work together to identify ways to provide child care access to workers who are performing necessary services, like health care workers, and ensure that all child care providers that remain open have the support and guidance necessary to provide accessible and safe care during this pandemic,” the letter states.

“As the primary support for early childhood education programs at the federal level, the Office of Child Care is best positioned to provide guidance on how to most effectively activate child care providers across the country to meet the current, critical needs. Your input is especially useful in ensuring that the $3.5 billion in additional emergency funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant under the CARES Act, the third COVID-19 response package, is used most effectively.

“As we work to get needed support to child care providers across the country, we must also work to activate this emergency funding to provide essential child care assistance to workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 response efforts, including health care sector employees, emergency responders, and sanitation workers.”

The bipartisan COVID-19 package the president signed into law last week includes $3.5 billion in emergency funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant, and the senators are calling on HHS to provide details by Monday, April 6, about what the department is doing to ensure the funding is used effectively.