Supporters say federal child care changes could build on work started in Washington – if they are successful | Local
Washington State has seen major changes in child care policies this year.
The passage of the Fair Start for Kids Act in May reduced the amount families pay as co-payments to licensed child care providers and increased the number of people eligible for assistance.
Now, a set of federal proposals could expand on these changes, although the Build Back Better Act is in limbo in Washington, DC.
Child care is part of the Build Back Better Act, the Biden administration’s $ 2 trillion domestic policy bill. The bill contains funds intended to fight the pandemic, climate change and social services. He was smacked over the weekend by Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who said he would not vote for.
The plan offers funding to reduce the amount parents have to pay child care providers. Families earning less than 250% of their state’s median income would pay no more than 7% of their income on co-payments. Families would pay a smaller and smaller percentage as their income bracket shrinks. The universal nursery school is also included in the proposal.
To increase the availability of child care services, the bill sets aside a quarter of child care funding in its first three years to support the industry, including higher wages for child care workers.
States should adhere to the plan and its procedures to receive funding. Washington State Democrats Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray support the bill.
Murray, who has fought for decades to transform the nation’s child care system, highlighted the choice many families face between sending a parent to work and paying for child care or leaving a parent in. outside the workforce to supervise young children.
“Whether you are a teacher or a bus driver or working in a hospital or working in a service industry, this is the biggest stress families face today and we are addressing it,” Murray said. .
Impact on Washington State
Child care advocates said the proposed legislation would continue progress made in accessibility and affordability for Washington families.
“The provisions of Build Back Better really build on the foundation of the work done with the Fair Start for Kids Act,” said Nicole Rose, assistant secretary for preschool education in the Department of Children, Youth and Children. families in Washington State.
Under the Fair Start for Kids Act, families who make up to 60% of the state’s median income are eligible for state grants to help pay for child care costs.
Not all families who are eligible will receive assistance immediately. The grants will be rolled out between 2022 and 2025. Families with incomes at or below their state’s median will receive the grants first, giving low-income families a head start. This limit will increase year on year until 2025, when families earning up to 2.5 times the state’s median income will qualify.
In Washington, the median monthly income for a family of four is $ 8,566 this year, according to the Washington Department of Health and Human Services.
“The big change is that more families will have access to affordable, high-quality care,” said Rose.
The Build Back Better law has been criticized on the possibility that it would increase the demand for childcare services to an unsustainable level, in an area where demand already exceeds supply. Before the pandemic, Washington had 35 child care spaces for infants or young children for every 100 children whose parents are working, according to data from ChildCare Aware.
Ryan Pricco, director of policy and advocacy for ChildCare Aware, said advocates know the real demand for child care is much higher than it is on paper because there are people – especially women – who leave the workforce to care for their children. .
Improving childcare infrastructure could allow these people to re-enter the labor market, he said.
A certain amount of the bill’s child care funding is set aside to support current and future child care providers.
“I think the best thing about Build Back Better is the investments it makes in child care programs, in child care teachers because that is the biggest problem we have in the industry. right now, ”Pricco said. “People who provide care earn a pittance. “
Lorena Miranda, who owns and operates Nani Daycare in Yakima, is a union representative for the state home child care providers union, SEIU Local 925. She said raising wages would make a big difference for child care workers. Low wages contribute to high turnover in the field.
Licensed providers must keep the ratio of adult workers to children low, although the pandemic has allowed that ratio to rise a bit, Miranda said. So even if a provider has the space and desire to accommodate more children, it is impossible to do without additional workers.
“A lot of assistants don’t want to work with licensed daycares or homes because they earn minimum wage. They don’t want to work minimum wage when they can go to McDonald’s and get a lot more for it.
A pay rise would make people stay in the childcare industry, she said, and provide stability.
Many child care providers have recently received grants from the Ministry of Children, Youth and Families related to the Fair Start for Kids Act. But these grants can’t support higher wages for very long because they were one-time payments, Miranda said.
The Build Back Better child care plan would be funded until 2027.
Will the Build Back Better Act be passed?
The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in November, but hit a wall in the Senate. Senators were divided by party, with Democrats supporting and Republicans supporting the opposition. Manchin said on Sunday he would not support his current version, which means Democrats have one voice less than the 50 votes needed.
In a statement Sunday, Murray affirmed his determination to continue working on the passage of the bill. Other prominent Democrats have made similar pledges, the Associated Press reported.
“Joe Manchin may have woken up today and decided his job has changed, but I know exactly what mine is: fighting for the workers and families of Washington State,” he said. she said in the press release. “So my fight to Build Back Better, and whatever it does to help our state and our country, won’t stop until it’s on the president’s desk. “
The Senate will meet again on January 3.