Congress examines how to address rising child care costs for families & providers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More affordable child care is needed nationwide but many centers are struggling just to cover operating costs.


“We’ve been in survival mode for a while,” said Amy Brooks, executive director at the Early Care and Education Association.

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

That’s how Amy Brooks describes the current environment for child care centers. She operated one for 20 years in New Hampshire and she said workforce is one of the biggest barriers for providers.

“Trying to balance keeping child care affordable in a payroll heavy industry and not putting that burden directly on to parents,” she said.

Brooks said many providers won’t raise their prices which means it’s difficult to boost pay for employees.

“Any other small business, they charge the customer enough to help cover the cost of their workforce and their cost of operating, in child care we’re not able to do that,” she said.

This week, Brooks voiced those concerns directly to Congress during the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

READ: Senate committee examines barriers for women veterans receiving VA healthcare

“I work with these child care businesses on a daily basis and they tell me they are struggling to reach the break even point,” said Brooks during the congressional hearing.

Brooks said increasing prices at child care centers means fewer families who can afford those services.

This comes as one national study found this growing child care crisis is leading to $122 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue every year. Federal data also shows thousands of people have to stay home from work each month because of child care problems.

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen believes something has to change.

“Families across America are relying on us to help child care providers stay open and provide affordable care options,” said Sen. Shaheen, (D) New Hampshire.

READ: ‘I do everything with her in mind:’ Military teen whose mom died in bombing receives honor

Republican Senator Joni Ernst believes states may have some of the answers. She pointed to her home state of Iowa and how the governor helped create thousands of new child care center openings.

“Governor Reynolds in my home state of Iowa is setting an example we can all learn from, she incentivized employers to provide childcare and encouraged local governments to collaborate with businesses of all sizes to address their community’s child care shortages,” said Sen. Ernst, (R) Iowa.

During the congressional hearing, some experts also suggested expanding access to various child care options.

“State and local lawmakers should consider establishing multiple levels of licensing standards with a goal of increasing those in home, faith based, and employer provided child care,” said Rachel Greszler from the Heritage Foundation.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Some lawmakers want to make it easier for child care centers to access federal funding. One proposal would allow nonprofit providers to participate in certain loan programs of the Small Business Administration.

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.

Comments on this article