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Quality, Affordable Child Care: The Time Is Now

Jennifer, a full-time county employee, and her husband John, a supermarket manager, together earn $142,800 a year. They pay $280 per week for their two-year old to be in full-day child care - $14,000 a year for 50 weeks. That’s just about 10% of their annual income. The child care program closes for two weeks in the summer, so Jennifer has to take five of her 10 vacation days to stay home one week, and her husband does the same for the second week. They don’t have a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu; they don’t treat themselves to dinner out more than twice a year. They put off going to the doctor when they’re sick because of the high cost of their deductible, and they certainly don’t take sick days because they save them in case their child is sick.

This scenario is all too common for families in New York where, according to the Economic Policy Institute, New Yorkers pay an average of $14,144 a year for one child to attend a child care program. In a February 10, 2019, New York Times OpEd, Katha Pollitt cites the EPI and this statistic.

On February 11th, Jordan Weissman published a piece for Slate Magazine entitled America’s Insanely Expensive Child Care Is a Serious Economic Problem. He says, “Something people tend to ignore about the high price of child care in the United States is that it’s not just a burden on individual families; it’s really a weight on our entire economy.” Weissman goes on to say that family-leave polices and the high cost of child care often keep women out of the job market – women with the potential to discover a cancer drug, or to manage a farm assistance program, or to broker a land development deal with foreign investors.

Locally, the River Journal, which covers news in several Westchester villages, also published a piece February 11th by Howard Milbert in which he reported on his travels to Albany with hundreds of others on February 4th for State-wide Early Childhood Advocacy Day (the topic of my Feb. 1 blog) to meet with legislators to talk about solutions to what is becoming a crisis for so many.

The good news – people across the nation are noticing. Many voices are calling for changes to family leave and tax credit policies. Together, advocates, providers, parents, and the business community are calling for assistance for families to afford quality child care and for assistance to providers to improve program quality and wages.

We are putting a generation of children at a disadvantage because parents who want or need quality, affordable child care can’t access a program. We know the proven return on investing in early care and education for children birth to school-age. Let’s do something about it now.