The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the child care industry into turmoil nationally and in Washington state. Many providers lost clients as parents shifted to working from home or got laid off.
Statewide, more than 1,000 child care programs have shut down, including more than 360 in King County and more than 100 in Pierce County, according to Child Care Aware of Washington.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray of Washington is pushing for tens of billions of dollars for child care in the next stimulus package. She said the child care industry is crucial to reopening the economy, but that it was already in crisis before the coronavirus hit and now child care providers are even worse off.
“They are on the front line of serving our communities during this pandemic, but they lack adequate wages, protective equipment and benefits,” Murray said. “Without adequate support, child care businesses owned by people of color will disappear and thousands of educators will be without work."
On average, a child care worker in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region earns about $33,000 a year.
Rekah Strong, executive director of Vancouver’s Educational Opportunities for Children and Families, said the recent child care closures illustrate how many providers had been barely scraping by.
“What that demonstrates to us is that our systems have historically been underfunded,” Strong said. “We were so unstable, and (after) just a few months of not having guaranteed income coming in, they closed.”
Murray has introduced a bill totaling $430 billion called the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act. The bulk of the funds would go to the K-12 school system and colleges and universities, but $50 billion would go into a child care stabilization fund to help providers stay open and to help families afford care for their kids.
Murray, a Democrat, said she hopes to work with the Republican majority in the Senate to ensure the funds are in the next stimulus measure.