The COVID-19 pandemic just exacerbated the child care industry, which is vital for working parents. The child care industry has historically been underfunded and outrageously expensive for most American families and making access to quality care unattainable for more than 2 million parents a year.
The Center for American Progress estimates that more than 50 percent of Americans and 60 percent of rural Americans live in child care deserts, which are defined as areas where there are either no licensed child care providers for children under the age of five or less than one slot in a licensed child care center for every three children.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) study finds that more than half of child care centers in the United States say they are “losing money every day that they remain open,” with 2 out of 5 child care providers saying that they are covering costs by using personal savings or charging supplies to their own credit cards. This results from the fact that most child care providers currently have fewer tuition-paying families at the same time as their operating costs have increased, on average, by nearly 50 percent.
Congress introduced legislation that would address the current early learning and child care crisis by ensuring that no family under 150 percent of state median income pays more than seven percent of their income on child care. CWLA has included as part of its agenda that legislation, Enacting the Child Care for Working Families Act.
Child Care for Working Families Act would:
- Make child care more affordable for working families by creating a federal-state partnership to provide financial assistance for working families with children ages 0-13. Under the bill:
- No working family under 150 percent of state median income would pay more than seven percent of their income on child care.
- Families earning above 75 percent of state median income would pay their fair share for care on a sliding scale.
- Families under 75 percent of the state median income would not pay anything at all.
- Expand access to preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds by providing funding to states to establish and expand a mixed-delivery system of high-quality preschool programs.
- Improve the quality and supply of child care for all children, including by:
- Supporting child care for children who are dual-language learners, children who are experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care,
- Creating more inclusive, high-quality child care options for children, infants, and toddlers with disabilities and increasing funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,
- Increasing child care options for children who receive care during non-traditional hours,
- Providing grants to cover start-up and licensing costs to help establish new providers.
- Increase wages for child care workers by ensuring that all child care workers are paid at least a living wage and earn parity with elementary school teachers with similar credentials and experience.
- Better support Head Start programs by providing the funding necessary to offer full-day, full-year programming.
Now is the time to build a child care system that meets the needs of all families and pays early educators, most of whom are women and people of color, living wages, and supports the education and development of the nation’s youngest children.