A new report from the state Department of Commerce shows that affordable child care in Washington is out of reach for many working parents. And the problem has only gotten worse.
The report, created by Washington’s Child Care Collaborative Task Force, shows that before the pandemic over half a million children in Washington state didn’t have access to licensed child care. In total, nearly 8,000 parents were surveyed from across the state. Nearly 1 in 5 parents surveyed said they had to turn down a better paying job or promotion due to a lack of child care options.
“The pandemic has added this whole sense of urgency to the issue. And we now, I think, are in a position to say that if we want to do an economic recovery that is equitable and frankly, that doesn't take forever, then we've got to make a major investment in child care for parents and for our children,” said Lisa Brown, the director of the commerce department.
Most of the report’s data was collected in 2019. Since the arrival of COVID-19, 20 percent of child care providers are temporarily closed, 44 percent of child care early educators are laid off or furloughed, and more than half of the child care businesses surveyed say their income has dropped by at least 50 percent.
The report also shows that Black, indigenous communities and people of color are being impacted the most right now.
“Parents and also a very high percentage of our early learning providers are non-white, 50 percent," Brown said. "And so the low wages and the issues of affordability and quality affect communities disproportionately as other issues do and in society that we've been focusing on and understanding better in recent times. And this is certainly true in child care as well."
The goal of the report is to get a clear picture of the need for affordable child care. The task force will eventually ask lawmakers for ways to better subsidize expenses to prevent families from spending no more than 7 percent of their income on child care.