People often like to tell me that I am lucky I get to work from home. They say it's because I get to spend more time with my toddler — precious moments they wish they had with their kid. I end up feeling guilty because I wish I could put my son in day care; I know he would thrive there. But I don't have the financial resources. Really, if you're a parent, you're unlikely to be able to afford child care in the United States, and here's proof: Lawmakers aren't interested in making it easier for you.
According to TribLive.com, Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled House has proposed a $31.5 million 2017-18 state budget that slashes $28 million from child care assistance. It's a steep cut with potentially devastating consequences for Pennsylvania families: A spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf warned that the number of families waiting for Child Care Works, the state-subsidized child care program, would jump 50 percent under the GOP's budget to 19,000, TribLive.com reported. Right now, about 12,650 children are on the wait list for high-quality state care.
On the contrary, Wolf's proposed $32.3 billion state spending plan has called for a $35 million increase in state child care funding, according to PA Partnerships for Children. Included in that amount is a $10 million initiative that would reduce the Child Care Works' wait list by 1,800 children.
Pennsylvania isn't the only state to cut — or propose to cut — child care assistance for struggling families. For example, according to the National Women's Law Center, at least 17 states decreased funding or eligibility for state-subsidized child care in 2010. That year, lawmakers in the Keystone State stripped its child care assistance program for the 2011-2012 budget by nearly $39 million, the NWLC found.
And the situation had become worse over the last two decades. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the number of children who received child care subsidies reached a 16-year low in 2014. More so, the Center for Law and Social Policy reported that spending on child care assistance saw a $103 million cut in 2014, dropping to a 12-year low of $11.3 billion.
Child care assistance programs continued to suffer last year. According to NWLC, families in at least 15 states had less access to child care assistance in 2016 than the year before. Policy changes in those states decreased spending, shrunk eligibility, bloated wait lists, and cut reimbursement rates for child care providers, the NWLC reported.
Years and years of research has proven that high-quality child care boosts child development. So losing access can make it harder for families to thrive. Samantha Ellwood, executive director of Providence Connections in Pennsylvania, told TribLive.com,
The thing that scares me the most is we have so many families that struggle. They want to do the right thing and they want to work and care for their children, and they could potentially lose care.
Child care costs in the United States are astronomical. Most families can't afford to put their kids in day care or preschool on their own. State-subsidized programs help ease the burden of costs for families who want nothing but the best for their children. When lawmakers make deep cuts to assistance programs, they're telling their constituents that their well-being doesn't matter.