Low-income families struggling to afford child care will get some help thanks to a big bump in federal spending.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, was in Olympia on Jan. 18 to promote the passage of a $1.85 billion increase in federal funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which will help improve child care programs across the nation.
“It will help our struggling providers to keep the lights on and it will make a world of difference,” Murray said. “But let me be very clear, we are a long way from saying mission accomplished.”
Murray said families across the state are stressed and staying up late as they try to figure out how to find and afford child care.
Parents are forced to leave their jobs and stay out of the workforce because they cannot find child care, while child care providers are leaving their jobs because they are struggling to make ends meet, Murray said.
“We have to do better for kids, for moms and dads, for workers, for our economy and for everyone, because this crisis is hurting everyone and it's just going to keep getting worse,” Murray said.
The child care system has been recovering since the COVID-19 pandemic and is making its way back to pre-pandemic levels, said state Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way.
Wilson’s landmark bill, the Fair Start for Kids Act, was passed in 2021. It provided a $1.1 billion investment to help child care and early learning become more accessible and affordable for families around the state, she said. Since then, efforts to keep children in child care safe and healthy have improved.
“We've been able to do all of this because of the work of Sen. Murray,” Wilson said. “She has been instrumental in securing funding at the federal level that has helped us tremendously and allowed us to build libraries and spend our state dollars in flexible ways.”
Murray is the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee in the new Congress. She said she will continue to advocate for more investment in child care programs, including those in rural communities who have only one child care facility available.
Wilson is now working on a bill involving undocumented families who are not allowed working connections in child care. The bill would allow people in higher education programs to get those working connections so they can complete their education.
“We’re looking all over and we’re thinking about where children are, and we know we need to meet the needs, and it shouldn’t matter the number as much as where kids are in the quality of service they deserve,” Wilson said.
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