The real costs of child care in America


States support the idea of ​​helping vendors purchase and run software to meet management needs. New Mexico recently partnered with Wonderschool to use its technology platform to help child care providers, especially small centers and family caregivers.

Washington state providers told InvestigateWest in other ways, besides looking at staff ratios and scale, that governments could help them more:

  • To help with what one executive of a childcare company called “astronomically unaffordable” real estate prices, cities or counties might designate certain commercial locations as low-rent, heavily subsidized properties for caregivers. non-profit childcare services.
  • The states Preschool Learning Facilities Program already offers grants or loans at very low interest rates to providers who wish to open or expand their facilities. These providers must serve low-income families who use state grants to pay for child care. Over the next few years, approximately $ 40 million will be available, including money to help suppliers apply.
  • The state could Streamline its 90-day approval process for new child care sites, so providers don’t pay rent for several months before a center can open and start making money.
  • The state could create a shared risk pool allowing small providers to purchase health insurance for their workers and families. A new program The state-funded will provide free health insurance for child care workers whose households earn less than 300% of the federal poverty line. But it will not cover all workers, nor any dependents.

And, finally, suppliers are faced with the the high costs of low-wage jobs in the form of training and worker turnover costs. They want to find a way to pay more for child care workers, with salaries and benefits that adequately value their work, in part so that workers stay longer and providers do not have to continually train replacements.

State and federal government support is already a key factor in the labyrinthine world of child care funding. Regional and state entities, such as the Washington State Education Service Districts. Where ESD, help provide and add to federal help for providers and parents. Service districts are public entities that “provide cooperative services” to public, tribal, and some private schools providing K-12 education.

In south-central Washington, for example, 105The Early Learning Program serves children as an entrepreneur for the federal Jumpstart program and for the Early childhood education and assistance program (ECEAP), which provide free preschool and support services to low-income families.

Stacie Marez, director of ECEAP and community partnerships at ESD 105, said the high turnover rate resulting from low wages and lack of benefits means ECEAP programs in daycares must constantly train new workers. At the end of the three-year professional development cycle, she said, “that’s about the time we lose them to the benefit of the school district.”

The school district can run state-funded ECEAP programs with better salaries and benefits due to the district’s diverse funding sources, centralized administration (such as shared services), and absorption of expenses from some programs. ECEAP, such as utilities and classroom space.

The prices we pay for care

Child care providers charge what they think families in the community can afford, not what it costs to run a financially stable business. But these “private payment” rates, also known as market rates, are not always high enough to keep providers in business.

Fixed state Work connections Child care subsidy rates based on surveys that show what providers charge in a particular region of the state. Working Connections is a program for low-income families with children up to 12 years old. The process of setting tariffs for slots financed by ECEAP is more complicated.

Families eligible for grants find a participating provider to accommodate their children. The state then pays the supplier. With ECEAP, parents pay nothing; with Working Connections, parents pay a share of this rate as a co-payment, zero to $ 215 per month, depending on their income.

Even if the subsidy rates were 100% of the market rate, they would underpay many suppliers. The Fair Start for Kids Act just increased Working Connections grants from 65% to 85% of the market rate and increased ECEAP rates by 10%.

It should help. But like Joel Ryan, executive director of the Washington State Association for Head Start and ECEAPsaid, “Maybe we can get a subsidy rate high enough that it’s not terrible, but it doesn’t offset the real costs of child care.” Many providers will still face a loss in state tariffs, and most families will continue to pay full price.

Mary Curry estimated that, for last spring, her costs per child per month were around $ 1,200, but the state subsidy rate was around $ 750 to $ 800. Curry had made it work, in part, by reluctantly keeping staff costs low, as so many contractors do. “The funding was so low, but I could make it work because my kids were grown up and I didn’t have to support them at home anymore,” she said. “My husband is the one who gives me this opportunity to do this because he bears the overhead costs. “

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