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Senators Murray And Hassan Push For New Child Care Assistance Bill In Senate

Bill would provide much-needed help for families struggling with rising child care costs

Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-3) introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act of 2017, which would more than double the number of families eligible for child care assistance. The bill comes on the heels of recent research from Child Care Aware of America (CCAoA) showing child care has become unaffordable for working families in 49 states, plus the District of Columbia.

The Child Care for Working Families Act would create a federal-state partnership to ensure that families making less than 150 percent of their state’s median income do not pay more than seven percent of their income on child care. The bill also supports access to high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income 3- and 4-year olds. Finally, the bill would support the child care workforce by significantly improving wages and training for teachers and caregivers.

“At a time when far too many working families are struggling, finding quality child care that doesn’t break the bank shouldn’t be another thing keeping parents up at night,” said Senator Murray. “As a former preschool teacher, I know what quality early learning and care can do for a child’s development, so I’m proud to introduce the Child Care for Working Families Act to address our child care crisis and support access to high-quality preschool so that all children are ready for kindergarten and beyond. This is not only the right to thing to for working families, but it’s a smart investment in our children, our future, and our economy.”

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined with Senators Schumer (D-NY), Franken (D-MN), and Casey (D-PA), along with Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in co-sponsoring the bill.

“The high cost of child care is preventing too many people across New Hampshire and America from being able to participate in our workforce and thrive economically,” Senator Hassan said. “We must do more to ensure that all children have access to affordable, high quality child care that will help families make ends meet and prepare our young ones for their futures. The Child Care for Working Families Act takes critical steps to support hard-working families and invest in our children, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass this important legislation.”

“One month of child care costs more than one month of rent or a mortgage payment for many working families,” said Lynette Fraga, executive director of Child Care Aware of America. “This bill would help families for whom quality child care is now an out-of-reach luxury. We urge Congress to pass this bill and provide a critical, long-term investment in the future of America. We must ensure better outcomes for children, a stronger workforce and families that are more resilient. Every child, in every family, deserves high-quality care.”

The Child Care for Working Families Bill would:

  • Establish a new federal-state partnership to provide high-quality, affordable child care from birth through age 13.
  • More than double the number of children eligible for child care assistance, and ensure all those who are eligible have the ability to enroll their child in a quality program.
  • Provide incentives and funding for states to create high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income 3- and 4-year olds during the school day, while providing a higher matching rate for programs for infants and toddlers, who are often harder and more expensive to care for.
  • Increase workforce training and compensation, including by ensuring that all child care workers are paid a living wage and early childhood educators are provided parity with elementary school teachers with similar credentials and experience.
  • Improve care in a variety of settings, including addressing the needs of family, friend, and neighbor care and care during non-traditional hours to help meet the needs of working families.
  • Build more inclusive, high-quality child care providers for children with disabilities, and infants and toddlers with disabilities, including by increasing funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Help all Head Start programs meet the new expanded duration requirements and provide full-day, full-year programming

More than 11 million children under the age of five are in some form of child care in the United States. As the nation’s leading voice for child care, CCAoA is comprised of 125,000 online advocates from across the country and more than 32,000 members. Over 250 parents have shared their stories with lawmakers through our Family Advocacy Summit and Day on The Hill. For child care providers, we offer trainings on emergency preparedness as well as technical assistance that emphasize health, nutrition and obesity prevention and more.

For 30 years, CCAoA has been the leading voice for quality, affordable child care in the United States. While CCAoA continues to pursue our vision of the future in which every family in the United States has access to a high quality and affordable child care system, the sharing of accurate and updated information remains critical.

Currently the bill has the support of over 100 organizations including: AFSCME, the SEIU, Mom’s Rising, and the National Association of Elementary School Principles.


Text of the Child Care for Working Families Act can be found HERE.
A fact sheet on the Child Care for Working Families Act can be found HERE.

Granite State Rumblings: Americans Want A Candidate Who Will Invest In Children

Public Opinion Shows Voters Strongly Favor Investments in Children & Youth

A new poll commissioned by the Children’s Leadership Council finds that a strong majority (63 percent) of Americans want more funding for programs that support children and young people. More than three in five adults strongly favor expanded spending to improve education, health and nutrition.

In this election year, most adults say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to investing in effective child and youth well-being policies, according to a new national poll conducted by Hart Research on behalf of the Children’s Leadership Council. More than three in five adults representing every age, race, income and education level across the country, want the next president and Congress to spend more on nutrition, health and education programs for children, according to the poll findings. By overwhelming margins, Americans say the nation’s children would be better off if government did more to support parents and families, and, that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who would commit to policies that advance children’s well-being, if elected. This is especially true of Millennials, regardless of party.

“Support for the well-being of our nation’s children has no boundaries,” said Randi Schmidt, executive director of the Children’s Leadership Council. “Adults of all stripes, and from every corner of the country, are sending a strong message to presidential candidates and to Congress that our children must come first.”

Those surveyed responded with particular enthusiasm to candidate commitments related to reducing child abuse, child poverty and hunger. These are followed by policies related to child health care coverage, college affordability, child care, and education.

Millennials overwhelmingly support programs aimed at ensuring children’s well-being, according to the poll findings, with three in four millennials (74 percent) saying there should be greater investments in such programs.

Key findings:

Overall government investments in child well-being

  • Support for greater government investments in children is particularly high among Americans age 18- 34 (74%), African Americans (75%), Hispanics (74%), and parents with children under age 18 (71%).
  • Eighty-three percent of Democrats and more than half (58%) of Republicans say the next president and Congress should invest more when it comes to meeting the needs of children.
  • Parents of children under age 18 say that America’s children would be better off if government did more to support parents and families by making education, child care, nutrition and children’s healthcare more affordable. The majority of adults, both parents and nonparents, support this statement, with 75 percent of women, and 64 percent of men responding affirmatively.

Child Poverty and Hunger

  • Both parents and nonparents equally (80%) say they are more likely to support a candidate who prioritizes reducing child poverty and hunger.

Child Abuse and Family Violence

  • Seventy-five percent of all adults surveyed say reducing child abuse and family violence is an especially compelling reason to support a candidate. Among Republicans, this position resonates particularly well, with more than 2 in 3 (67%) of Republicans saying they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who stakes out such a position.

Children’s Healthcare

  • Children’s health care is the top issue among African Americans, with 83 percent of respondents saying they would be more likely to support candidates who commit to preserving and improving health care coverage. Sixty-seven percent of all adults also would be more likely to support a candidate who makes children’s health care a priority.

Affordable College

  • 76 percent of parents with children under 18 say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to making college more affordable, making it the second-most compelling reason among the policies tested, to support a candidate.
  • 66 percent of all respondents say they are more likely to support a candidate who focuses on making college more affordable, while 82 percent of African Americans and 81 percent of Democrats say such a commitment would draw their support.
  • For unmarried moms, parents over 35, college-educated parents, and those making more $75,000 a year, making college affordability a priority is the top reason to support a candidate.
  • Across all geographic and democratic groups, millennials are even more likely than older adults to support an increase in investment for children and youth.

Child Care Assistance and Early Childhood Education

  • Expanding child care assistance and early childhood education garners the most support from African Americans (77%) and Democrats (73%). Both of these groups are most likely to be compelled to vote for a candidate who commits to other learning opportunities, including expanding afterschool programs and summer learning opportunities.

Hart Research conducted the online survey between March 31 – April 6 to understand national sentiment regarding public investments in children and the role of government in improving child well-being. There were 2,050 adults, including 595 parents of children under the age of 18 from across the country, who participated in the survey.

The Children’s Leadership Council is a coalition of leading policy and advocacy organizations, (which includes Every Child Matters), that are working every day to improve the health, education and well-being of children and youth in order to prepare them for school, work, and life.

For more information, visit the Children’s Leadership Council at childrensleadershipcouncil.org.

New Hampshire Voters Express Concern for Growing Economic Inequality

Voting Booth (NicoleKlauss FLIKR)

Voting Booth (NicoleKlauss FLIKR)

Exit poll: Democratic voters supported candidates who addressed family friendly workplace policies

Concord, NH. – An exit poll conducted for the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy showed that income inequality was the most important issue (22 percent) for Democratic primary voters.

The exit poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, surveyed 397 Democratic primary voters and 412 Republican primary voters to gauge how voters assessed each candidate’s position on a variety of issues. The data shows that Democratic voters focused heavily on each candidate’s stance on family friendly workplace policies. 

Voters in the Democratic primary ranked the candidate’s position on the following issues as somewhat or very important – funding paid family and medical leave (78 percent), increasing the minimum wage (76 percent), paid sick days (74 percent), and ensuring access to quality, affordable child care (67 percent). 

“We know that New Hampshire families care about policies that will help them be better able to provide for their families and ensure their loved ones are well cared for,” said Amanda Sears, director of the New Hampshire Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy. “Voters want to be able to care for a sick child without risking their livelihood and need a wage that allows them to put food on the table; there are concrete policies that resolve these issues and help stabilize our economy. Voters are pushing for tangible change on these issues at both the national and state level.” 

The New Hampshire Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy has built tremendous support over the previous months and has collected more than 17,000 signatures in support of candidates who will fight for hardworking families and help communities thrive. The Campaign encouraged candidates from both parties to detail their plans and support for fair workplace policies.

Those signatures mirrored the responses of many in the poll. Democratic primary voters held consistent beliefs regarding the importance of the issues polled – minimum wage, affordable child care, paid family and medical leave, and paid sick days – regardless of whether they voted for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.

While Republican voters focused less on the issues outlined above, 33 percent designated jobs and the economy as the most important issue in selecting a candidate, issues that are closely linked to family friendly workplace policies. Research indicates that when employees have access to earned sick days and higher wages, they are more likely to stay in the workforce, are more productive in their jobs and are more loyal to their employer. This saves companies millions in rehiring and retraining costs and contributes to a sustainable economy.

“It’s abundantly clear from these polling results that New Hampshire voters – like voters across the country – are frustrated with our nation’s growing income inequality. This exit poll reflects what we’ve been hearing in cities and states across our nation – citizens want officials who will support policies that will benefit both families and the economy,” said Lisa Guide, Associate Director of the Rockefeller Family Fund, who is funding an effort to bring mandatory paid sick leave to New Hampshire. Currently, there are 26 sick leave laws in the country, mostly enacted in the past few years.

The lack of work-family policies places a significant burden on families, particularly women and mothers. Across the country, more than 70 percent of employers offer no paid maternity leave. The U.S. lags far behind other countries in this regard, and families pay the price. Furthermore, the vast majority of families have both parents in the labor force, making access to child care a necessity. For many families with young children, child care costs now exceed rent for the largest monthly expenditure at nearly $1,000 per child per month for full time care.

Over the past several months, the New Hampshire effort has built momentum for these policies and demonstrated broad support. Leading up to both the Republican and Democratic debates, campaign leaders wrote open letters to the candidates, urging them to address their stance on policies like affordable child care and earned sick days. The Campaign pressed candidates to answer tough questions related to family friendly policies and captured their responses on video. Campaign advocates also drove a “Family Van” throughout New Hampshire to meet community members and candidates on the campaign trail and to call attention to the imminent need for policies that work for America’s families.

The Campaign will continue to advocate for family friendly workplace policies at the state level in the coming months.

To learn more about the New Hampshire Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, visit http://www.familyfriendlyeconomy.org/ 

Granite State Rumblings: Wages, Child Care And The Working Poor

If you have been following the Presidential candidate debates, you are beginning to hear some very important policy differences not only between the two parties, but between the candidates themselves. One of those differences is quite evident when the talk turns to low and stagnant wages for the working poor.

The Democrats are in agreement that the minimum wage should be increased, though they differ on how high, based on their comments at the debate last Saturday evening. The Republican candidates have mainly talked about other ways of addressing stagnant wages and income inequality. Plans that have been discussed include cutting business taxes to spur more job growth and opportunities for jobs with higher rates of pay, boosting worker productivity, more technical job training, and an overhaul of higher education.

While all of these ideas may be valid, there is one issue for low-income workers that remains, even as they see incremental increases in their wages, or an increase in the minimum wage – Work Support Programs – also known as public assistance programs. Work supports help close the gap between low earnings and the cost of basic expenses.

But, public assistance for the working poor isn’t designed to allow parents the opportunity to incrementally increase their wages to work toward self-sufficiency.

In many cases, as a parent’s earnings increase and they rise above the poverty level, they begin to lose eligibility for assistance programs such as child care subsidies, housing subsidies, food stamps, and health care coverage, even though they are not yet self-sufficient.

I saw this play out way too often for many of the single moms at the child care center where I worked. In some cases even as little as a fifty cent increase in wages could mean a budget breaking rise in her out of pocket child care cost. The raise she had worked so hard to achieve would not cover the increase, so she was left with the decision of turning it down, trying to dig deeper in an already stretched budget, or finding less expensive (and lower quality) care for her child(ren) while she worked. This is called the Cliff Effect, and it results in many women refusing pay increases, rather than lose their shelter, lose their quality child care so that they can work, or have to give up health care or meals for themselves. The dream of self-sufficiency becomes the reality of assistance dependence.

Colorado Public Radio has been exploring the lives of Colorado children who are living in poverty. The story below is part of that work.

Why Getting Ahead Often Feels Like Falling Behind When You’re Poor

BY MEGAN VERLEE/ CPR NEWS

Call it poverty’s “glass ceiling.”

Longmont resident Tracey Jones grows vegetables from her garden to feed her family in the summer. Since Jones started making too much to qualify for food stamps, she’s had more trouble keeping food on the table.

The way many public benefit programs are structured, even minor increases in income can result in a big loss in assistance. That’s sometimes so large a loss that it can send families tumbling backwards just when they thought they were finally getting ahead.

Longmont resident Tracey Jones knows all about the phenomenon, often called the “cliff effect.” She’s been living at its edge for several years now.

In the past few years, she’s moved from unemployment to a rewarding full-time job as a certified nursing assistant for a hospice program. But in some ways she’s lost as much as she’s gained. Food stamps, for one thing. When she started making too much to qualify, Jones had to turn to food banks. And she took up gardening, “to take a little bit of the edge off my food insecurity.”

As her income has risen, Jones has lost other benefits too. Her big worry currently is Medicaid. She went through a major surgery a few months ago, and in the weeks leading up to it kept getting conflicting letters about whether or not she was still covered.

“I got three notices in one week,” Jones said. “‘Oh, you have insurance, yay!’ Two days later: ‘You do not have insurance.’ Then the end of the week: ‘You need to fill out this paper for your insurance.’ I don’t know. At this point, I’m just praying it all works out.”

This uncertainty has permeated her life for years — it’s the dark side to her improving income.

“It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s kind of like you get punished for trying to get out of poverty,” Jones said.

Programs Offer Perverse Incentives

The cliff effect stems from the fact that most government assistance programs have hard and fast income limits: start making even a little more than the cut-off and a person stands to immediately lose a lot of benefits.

Jessica Valand oversees job training programs through Colorado’s Department of Human Resources. The way she sees it, both policy makers and the poor themselves value work over assistance, but the way the system is set up, it ends up encouraging the exact opposite.

“If someone wants to give me a dollar raise, or even a $2-an-hour raise, but I know that that $2-an-hour raise is not going to make up for the $1,500 in child care subsidy I’m going to lose, what is my incentive to keep going?” Valand said.

Many don’t keep going. When the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and the Bell Policy Center asked focus groups of poor single mothers whether they’d ever turned down a raise or extra hours at work because they were afraid of losing their benefits, about a third said yes.

“In any given month, a woman may need to monitor very closely the hours she’s working to make sure she’s always maintaining her eligibility,” says the Foundation’s Louise Myrland. The group considers the cliff effect a women’s issue because the impacts often fall most heavily on working mothers and their children.

Official concern about the cliff effect has picked up steam in recent years, as data has shown that despite the improving economy, many working poor appear to be stuck relying on public benefits.

“It’s like, how did we get people this far, and they can’t get to the next step?” said Jefferson County Human Services Director Lynn Johnson.

But while there may be increasing agreement that the cliff effect is a problem, the solution won’t come cheap. In order to taper higher income people off of benefits more gently, the government will either have to increase overall funding for programs, or put more limits on the total number of people they can serve.

“Are we here to be just the safety net, the handout? Or is it a handout and up and off?” asks Johnson, who thinks easing the fiscal cliff would save money in the long term. “The more successful people are moving out of our system, the more money we should have to invest.”

Jefferson County is one of 10 counties taking part in a new state experiment to try to fix the fiscal cliff in one big program: child care assistance. Instead losing their entire subsidy when they hit a hard and fast income limit, families in these counties just have to pay a slowly increasing chunk of their daycare costs out of pocket. Bell Policy’s Rich Jones lobbied the Legislature to invest in this pilot effort. He said the idea is to turn the benefits cliff into more of a gentle slope.

“As you move further up the economic ladders, you still get some support, but you get a lot less. And then you gradually work your way off,” Jones explains.

The child care assistance pilot only started over the summer, but anecdotal reports suggest it’s so far succeeding in its goal of allowing families to earn more money without worrying they’re about to be crushed by a giant new daycare bill.

Two Families Stuck On The Cliff

Nicole Davis found out about the cliff effect the hard way. Nearly a decade ago the preschool teacher and her husband George, who worked in manufacturing, made getting off of all public assistance their goal. They succeeded, but that success almost destroyed their family.

“A lot of times we would have time to decide which bills that we wanted to pay. And sometimes it would mean that George or I would go without meals,” said Davis, recalling life without any government benefits. “When we realized we weren’t brining in enough money to pay rent … we went to the church for help and they basically said, ‘you need to get on assistance!'”

Instead, Davis and her young children ended up homeless. It took years for the family to work their way back to stability.

Today, the Wheat Ridge resident says she’s stopped even thinking about trying to make it to self-sufficiency. The cliff is just too daunting.

“I am intrigued myself by the fact that our family tried to get off of all the services and all the things that happened when we were getting off,” she said. “I’m surprised by what happened.”

For another Wheat Ridge mother, Sheila Lucero, the benefits cliff has turned life into a balancing act.

After struggling through the Great Recession, things have been looking up for the Lucero’s; Sheila’s husband Ian is an HVAC contractor and the housing boom means lots of work. But they’ve been making sure his income stays low enough to keep qualifying the family for Medicaid.

Lucero believes in small government; it’s painful to her to rely on taxpayer money. But she puts up with it for her children’s sake.

“You know, we’re not proud of being in this situation, but we definitely need our kids to have their check-ups and stuff,” Lucero said. “The cliff effect just puts people back where they were, or in a worse position, and it makes them not want to try.”

As an increase in the minimum wage is discussed and debated at both the federal and state level, now is a good time to start the discussion and debate about benefit eligibility levels. Hard working parents should not be penalized for trying to do better for their families.

GROWING UP GRANITE 

Here are several opportunities to discuss class and classism in our state, a conversation that can be both difficult and challenging, but so very necessary. These workshops are hosted by a coalition of NH organizations.

Exploring Class and Classism in New Hampshire Building Unity in our Community

  • Why is class often so difficult to talk about? How does class impact your work?
  • What is your class story?

Discuss these questions and more at Class Action’s New Hampshire open workshops hosted by a coalition of NH organizations.  Class Action has spent 11 years developing creative ways of asking questions, sharing personal experiences and helping people to engage with issues of class in a meaningful way. Their workshops are highly interactive, engaging and focused on learning from one another in the room. All workshops are on a sliding scale, $75 – $20. Scholarships available. To inquire, please send us an e-mail.

Dates and Locations

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Berlin, NH

Hosted by: North Country Listens and Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network

Register

Friday, December 4, 2015

Claremont, NH

Hosted by: United Valley Interfaith Project and Rethink Health

Register

Friday, December 11, 2015

Manchester, NH

Hosted by Investing in Communities, NH Citizens Alliance and New Futures

Register

Saturday, December 12, 2015 

Pittsfield, NH 

Hosted by Investing in Communities, NH Citizens Alliance and New Futures

Register

Featured Image by US Army on Flicker

Kuster Announces Support for Legislation to Increase Access to Childcare During Roundtable Discussion with Salem Parents and Early Childhood Education Stakeholders

2015-07-17 Annie KusterSalem, NH – This morning, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) held a roundtable discussion with local stakeholders and staff at Salem Family Resources to discuss their work, and to announce her support for federal legislation to increase access to childcare and early childhood education. The discussion also provided Kuster with a chance to hear from parents, childcare providers, and advocates about how Congress can help support working families with young children, so their thoughts can be included in the Congresswoman’s forthcoming “Working Families Agenda.”

“All across the state, parents are hard at work earning a living for their families. But rising childcare costs are pushing many families over budget,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “We must ensure that we’re supporting working families, and increasing access both to childcare, and to early childhood education – which we all know is so important for developmental growth. During today’s roundtable, I got a chance to hear firsthand from Salem parents, educators, and other stakeholders about how Congress can best support our working families, and I was proud to announce my support for two bills that will help ease the burden on families with young children.”

During the roundtable, Congresswoman Kuster was joined by a number of participants from the early childhood education community to hear about the state of childcare across the district. Parents also shared challenges facing working families, and Kuster will take their feedback back to Washington and incorporate their thoughts into her Working Families Agenda. She also announced her support for two bills to help families better afford the cost of childcare: the Child Tax Credit Permanency Act of 2015 would adjust the Internal Revenue Code to give more families access to the Child Tax Credit and provide inflation adjustments to the $1,000 credit for calendar years after 2013, and the Child Care Access and Refundability Expansion Act of 2015, which would help ensure that middle class families qualify for a larger portion of the Child Tax Credit.

As many New Hampshire families make sacrifices and parents work multiple jobs to make ends meet, Congresswoman Kuster is committed to supporting these families and has long advocated for efforts to strengthen early childhood education. Later this year, she will release a Working Families Agenda, a blueprint that outlines steps Congress should take to support working families across the country. Kuster was proud to host this event, which continued an important dialogue with families in New Hampshire and gave parents a chance to share ideas on policies that could benefit children and their families for years to come.

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Granite State Rumblings: The High Cost Of Child Care Hurts Working Families

A new report on the cost of child care was released last week. Child Care Aware of America’s 2014 report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care, summarizes the cost of child care across the country, examines the importance of child care as a workforce support and as an early learning program, and explores the effect of high costs on families’ child care options. This year’s report continues to expose child care as one of the most significant expenses in a family budget, often exceeding the cost of housing, college tuition, transportation or food.

The high cost of child care can be a crippling burden for families with young children. The Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2014 report not only examines the high cost of care, but investigates potential solutions for providing high-quality child care to families who need it at a cost that they can afford.

The following is the report’s Executive Summary. You can download the full report here.

Child Care in America
Nearly 11 million children under the age of five across the nation require child care services each week. High-quality child care not only helps parents to be more productive at work, but also provides benefits to young children, including improving school readiness.

This section details common child care settings, the economic benefits of high- quality child care for parents and their employers, and the developmental and educational benefits of high-quality child care for young children.

Why Child Care Costs Are High
Child care and early education is a labor- intensive industry which leads to high costs for families, despite the fact that child care workers are among the lowest paid professionals nationwide.

This section explores the costs that child care providers bear, including the inputs needed to provide high-quality child care and the necessary state regulations that providers must meet.

Average Cost in the States
The cost of child care varies widely across states, and the cost of living in each state also affects the affordability of child care for families. In order to compare the cost of child care across states, we examine the average cost of care in each state in relation to the state median income for married couples with children and the state median income for single mothers.

Using this method, this section ranks the top ten least affordable states for center-based child care at each age level, including infant care, four-year-old child care, and before and after school care for a school-age child.

Child Care and the Family Budget
Child care costs consume a major portion of family expenses. Average expenses for child care can rival expenses for housing, transportation, and even tuition and fees for public colleges. The high cost of child care can be particularly difficult for low-income families and single parents. Across all 50 states, the cost of center-based infant care averaged over 40 percent of the state median income for single mothers.

In this section, we examine how the cost of child care compares to other family expenses, including housing, transportation, food, and college tuition. Additionally, we examine the high relative cost of child care for families at the poverty level.

Paying for Child Care
Families bear the majority of the burden for child care costs. While some public funding is available for child care, the incomplete patchwork of support often does not provide enough assistance for families, who may opt to place their child in an informal or unlicensed child care setting due to the high cost of high-quality care.

This section details the various sources of child care funding, including families, federal funding, income tax credits, and other sources.

Expanding Access to Quality Affordable Child Care
Funding high-quality child care services is a national concern for government, business leaders, and families alike.

In this section, we explore creative solutions to the high cost of child care, including building an environment for child care providers that encourages and supports high- quality practices and involving businesses in the creation of child care solutions for their employees and communities. The section also details strategies to support individual families in accessing high-quality child care.

Conclusions and Recommendations
Considering the findings of this report, Child Care Aware recommends:

➢    The commencement of a national discussion about the impact of the high cost of child care and the cost of quality in child care. This conversation should explore federal and state options; innovative, low-cost solutions that have shown success; what has worked in other industries; and what models currently exist within communities that have seen success.

➢    Congress require the National Academy of Sciences to produce a study on the true cost of quality child care and to offer recommendations to Congress for financing that supports families in accessing affordable, quality child care.

➢    Congress review and consider what policy options are available to help families offset the rising cost of child care, including, but not limited to raising dependent care limits for deductions or providing additional tax credits for families and providers, creating public- private partnerships, and looking to existing states with successful financing models.

➢    Federal and state governments commit to investing in early care and education programs, especially considering the recent historical progress at the federal level towards ensuring all children in low-income, working families have access to affordable, quality child care.

The full list of recommendations are detailed further in the concluding section of this report.

Growing Up Granite

When I began as a classroom teacher in the field of Early Childhood Education thirty years ago, most teachers at center-based programs were only making minimum wage or slightly above it with little to nothing in the way of benefits. A good portion of the child care workers were also single mothers struggling to get by on meager wages. And turnover was high.

When I became a center director ten years later, little to nothing had changed, except my awareness of this pervasive issue. The desire to increase the wages of staff was hampered by the ability to afford such an increase without increasing the parents’ tuition. But tuition increases first went to operating costs such as oil to heat the building, utility increases, program supplies, and building maintenance and then whatever was left over could go to staff. Usually it was very small if anything at all.

The National Child Care Staffing Study (NCCSS), released in 1989, brought national attention for the first time to poverty-level wages and high turnover among early childhood teaching staff, and to the adverse consequences for children of such staffing instability. In the succeeding 25 years, the national debate about the role of early care and education (ECE) in children’s lives has shifted dramatically—above all, due to a recognition up to the highest levels of government that high-quality early learning boosts children’s school readiness, and constitutes a wise economic investment in the nation’s future.

The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment recently released a follow-up to its National Child Care Staffing Study. Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages: The Early Childhood Workforce 25 Years After the National Child Care Staffing Study compiles evidence from multiple sources to provide a portrait of the early childhood teaching workforce today in comparison to 25 years ago. The report examines trends in center-based teachers’ education, wages and turnover, as well as new evidence examining economic insecurity and use of public benefits among this predominantly female, ethnically diverse workforce.

Inadequate Wages and Wage Structure
Despite a nearly two-fold increase in costs to parents for early childhood services since 1997, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, childcare workers have experienced no increase in real earnings since this time. Those who work as preschool teachers have fared somewhat better; their wages have increased by 15 percent in constant dollars since 1997. And, as was true in 1989, childcare workers still earn less than adults who take care of animals, and barely more than fast food cooks.

Lack of Premium for Educational Attainment
The disparities in wages of early childhood teachers in comparison to teachers of older children and others in the civilian labor force with comparable education are striking – a pattern that has endured over the last 25 years despite increases in earnings for some segments of the early childhood workforce. Preschool teachers with equivalent education earn about 60 percent of what kindergarten teachers earn.

Economic Insecurity
More than 600 center-based teaching staff surveyed in one state expressed worry about their family’s economic well-being, as well as about workplace policies that influenced their earnings. Importantly, these staff, nearly one-half of whom had an associate or higher degree, were employed in a relatively high quality sample of centers that included for-profit, non-profit, Head Start, and public pre-K programs.

Utilization of Public Support
In 2012, nearly one-half (46 percent) of childcare workers, compared to 25 percent of the U.S. workforce, resided in families enrolled in at least one of four public support programs: the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Participation rates in public support programs varied little by whether childcare workers were employed full- or part-time, but rates varied considerably by childcare worker wage level. Childcare workers who earned less than the proposed $10.10 federal minimum wage were 1.5 times more likely to reside in families participating in public support programs than were those in which the childcare worker earned more than $10.10 per hour.

At every level of worker education, participation in public support programs was higher for childcare worker families than for the families of all other U.S. workers with comparable education, again revealing the low premium placed on education within this workforce. Participation rates in public support programs were highest among single parent childcare workers and among workers with at least one child under five years old. The estimated cost of reliance on public benefits by child care workers and their families is approximately $ 2.4 billion per year.

These are exciting times for the field as developmental scientists, economists, and business leaders have lent early care and education a prominent position on this landscape in shaping children’s development and, ultimately, the health of the economy.

We are hearing about the importance of early childhood education from the White House to our State House, from economists to CEOs, from government agencies to local agencies, and from parent to parent-to-be.

As the report states in the Executive Summary:

This reality calls for a major restructuring of how we finance and deliver early care and education in the United States. We need, in the words of the 1990s Worthy Wage Campaign, to find a “much better” and “more equitable” way to help parents pay and to attract teachers and help them stay – something that our Department of Defense, a handful of state pre-K programs, and most other industrialized nations, have managed to accomplish. It is our hope that the new evidence reported here will spur the nation to not only aspire to, but to achieve livable, equitable, and dependable wages for early childhood teachers, of whom we expect so much, but to whom we still provide so little.

Image Children in preschool (Flickr US Army)

Granite State Rumblings: Congress Reauthorizes Child Care Block Grants And That Is Good News

Child Care Facility (EAGLE102_Net CC FLIKR)

YMCA child care room (EAGLE102_Net CC FLIKR)

Here is some important news from our friends at Zero to Three and the National Women’s Law Center.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Senate and House have reached an agreement to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary federal program that provides funds for child care subsidies for low-income working families and to improve child care quality.

The House voted Monday to pass the legislation and the Senate will vote on the bill before Congress goes into recess on Sept. 23.

(Read the joint statement of the bipartisan group from the House and Senate who came together to forge this legislation here.)

The bipartisan bill promises to:

  • Improve the health and safety of children in child care settings;
  • Make it easier for families to get and keep the child care assistance they need;
  • Enable children to have more stable child care; and
  • Strengthen the overall quality of child care.

Most notably for infant-toddler advocates, the agreement would create a 3% set-aside of funds to improve the quality of infant-toddler care. These funds will increase states’ capacity to invest in helping programs reach a high level of quality as well as specialized training and support for infant-toddler providers.

High-quality child care is linked to the success of children and their parents. Child care provides early learning opportunities to children and enables women to work so they can support their families. With significantly increased funding, this bill can make a critical difference.

While this agreement is an important step toward the reauthorization of CCDBG, the Senate must now vote to approve the compromise bill and get this to the finish line. Phone calls to your Senators are especially needed this week.
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And this from our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Our new report provides context for the official poverty and income figures for 2013, which the Census Bureau will release on Tuesday, September 16th.

Here are the highlights:

  1. As in other recent recoveries, poverty has been slow to decline.  Over time, poverty rates tend to move roughly in tandem with economic indicators, which generally improved slightly in 2013.  Thus, the poverty rate — which jumped from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 15.1 percent in 2010 and remained essentially unchanged at 15.0 percent in 2011 and 2012 — may start to improve in 2013 as well, although the improvement might not be statistically significant .A return to pre-recession poverty levels is unlikely soon.  To replace the millions of jobs lost in the Great Recession anytime soon and keep up with population growth, the economy must create jobs faster than it has to date.  Although the economic recovery (which officially began in June 2009) is not uniquely disappointing in this regard, it is still problematic — and because the economic downturn was so deep, there is much more ground to make up.  Recoveries in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s featured quicker reductions in poverty.
  2. Austerity policies likely hampered progress against poverty in 2013.  The economy almost certainly would have improved more in 2013 had austerity policies not reduced the government’s contribution to the economy.  These included the “sequestration” spending cuts of the 2011 Budget Control Act and first implemented in 2013 and the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, which reduced most workers’ take-home pay by 2 percent of earnings.
  3. Unequal wage growth also slowed progress.  Between 2009 and 2013, inflation-adjusted hourly wages rose by 1 percent for workers at the 95th percentile (workers whose wage levels exceed those of 95 percent of all workers but are less than the remaining 5 percent), but fell by about 4 to 6 percent for workers in the bottom 60 percent of the wage scale, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
  4. Income inequality tied a record-high level in 2012.  The income gap between rich and poor as measured by the Gini index — the Census Bureau’s main summary indicator of inequality in pre-tax cash income — tied a record in 2012, with the data going back to 1967.  Other inequality measures also stood at or near record levels in 2012.
  5. Most poverty figures released on Tuesday won’t reflect non-cash benefits.  The Census figures will focus on the official poverty statistics, which are based on pre-tax cash income and omit support such as food assistance and rental subsidies as well as tax-based assistance such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  An alternative Census Bureau poverty measure, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), includes these types of assistance, and experts generally consider it a more reliable tool for measuring changes in poverty over time as well as the safety net’s impact on poverty.  Unfortunately, Census will not release SPM figures for 2013 until later this year.  However, Census will release a table on Tuesday providing data on the poverty-reducing effects of certain programs, including SNAP (formerly food stamps) and the EITC.
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