BOSTON (SHNS) – Child care programs licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care got a retroactive 10 percent increase in the rates they are paid this week, a boost that Baker administration officials said totals nearly $80 million.

The rate increases retroactive to July 1 are funded through the fiscal year 2023 budget and are “expected to cover child care costs for approximately 50,000 children whose families are eligible for state subsidies,” EEC said. The Board of Early Education and Care voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the 10 percent raise in order to ensure that all providers are paid daily rates equal to at least “the 30th percentile of the market rate” that private-pay child care programs get, the department said.

“These rate increases are one part of the Commonwealth’s strategy to support the early education field, promote access, and help programs focus on quality as they prepare our young learners for school,” Education Secretary James Peyser said. “Our economy depends on our workforce having safe, quality child care, and these increases will assist in ensuring that child care is available for those who need it most.”

EEC Acting Commissioner Amy Kershaw said the “package of investments builds on the continued effort to increase the purchasing power of low-income families, while also serving as an important stabilizer for the programs participating in our subsidy system as they continue to grapple with economic challenges.”

The importance and vulnerabilities of the state’s early education and care field came into even sharper focus when the pandemic closed schools and child care centers, upending the work routines of many parents.

report released earlier this year by the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission estimated that $1.5 billion in investments are needed to stabilize the early education and care system and help it meet the needs of families. Advocates viewed 2022 as a prime opportunity for Beacon Hill to stabilize and reshape the sector.

But while the late economic development bill that is still on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk would put $150 million towards stabilization grants for early education providers, a Senate-approved early education and child care bill stalled out in the House this session and advocates are now trying to regroup