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With Industry in Crisis, WA Addresses Child Care Woes

Eric Tegethoff, Producer

Idaho State- Thursday, July 13, 2023


Child care is one the costliest services for families across the country. Advocates for child well being say Washington state has positioned itself to tackle the issue going forward.

Staffing remains one of the toughest issues for child care facilities. Ryan Pricco – director of policy and advocacy with Child Care Aware of Washington – said in some extreme cases, programs have been faced with tough decisions.

“They actually have to kick families out of their program and no longer serve them,” said Pricco, “and those are some heartbreaking scenarios that we see play out.”

Pricco noted that programs have to adhere to strict staffing ratios to ensure they aren’t overburdened and that every kid is getting the care they need.

The national average cost for child care was nearly $11,000 in 2022, according to a study by Child Care Aware of America.

Pricco said the federal government responded during the pandemic, allocating money to states to keep child-care programs afloat.

States have to spend those funds by September. Pricco said many states have not used those dollars, making Washington state an outlier.

“We already spent that money and are already dealing with the loss of that money,” said Pricco. “And the way we’ve dealt with this is by passing the Fair Start for Kids Act – passing the capital gains tax that keeps those services going, for families and caregivers going forward. ”

Passed in 2021, the Fair Start for Kids Act expands the eligibility for the state’s Working Connections Child Care subsidies.

Pricco said Child Care Aware of Washington can help people apply for assistance.

Pricco said the next challenge for Washington and the rest of the country is ensuring that workers in the industry are properly compensated.

“We don’t have that in place right now,” said Pricco, “and until we get that in place, these other investments and other policies that we’ve made progress on will never realize their full potential until we do so.”

Disclosure: Child Care Aware of Washington contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children’s Issues, Early Childhood Education, Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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