Senator Murray proposes measures to help parents with childcare costs

Senator Patty Murray, along with Senator Tim Kaine, are proposing funding to expand access to child care services amid staff shortages and rising costs.

WASHINGTON — Eight mothers with children enrolled in Head Start programs in Tacoma, Seattle, Olympia and Federal Way traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to share their experiences and ask for help from the federal government, in conjunction with the Washington State Association of Head Start and the Early Childhood Education and Support Program (ECEAP).

Maya Ewing, mother of two boys aged three and one, has worked in early childhood education throughout her career. But when she became a mother, she was unable to earn enough money to continue in this role while taking care of her children.

“Since then I’ve been self-employed as a doula, braiding hair, doing whatever I can to make ends meet, but I haven’t been able to return to work because I don’t have access to spaces for children. that they’re safe,” Ewing said. “If I managed to get a full-time job, I wouldn’t be eligible for the grants, and more than half of my check would go to pay for daycare. stuck up.”

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Ewing said with younger children, it’s even harder to find care. She said she heard parents across the region say it was getting harder and harder.

“Something has to be done,” Ewing said. “We need help, we’re doing everything we can, and we’re all trying to make a living so we can give better to our children and our families, and there are all these barriers in place.”

Ewing said she’s encouraged and empowered by parents’ conversations with lawmakers and federal agencies and hopes they’ll provide better financial support to raise workers’ wages to help families cope with the rise. costs. She says it’s both about helping parents be able to work and making sure children and families get the access they need.

“Children are the future, so in these early learning programs they learn about social-emotional well-being,” Ewing said. “Programs like Head Start incorporate health screenings, so those children who may not have access for other reasons to other barriers, to regular visits to the doctor, they have vision screenings , they’re measured, they’re taught how to take care of their teeth All those basic skills that we need as people anyway, for those people who need them the most, they don’t have access to those things, they’re going to be behind in so many other areas.

Along with rising costs parents are facing, some child care centers say it’s getting harder to maintain staffing levels. There are a number of reasons for this, and one of the main ones is salaries, and they hope that increased federal support could help make progress in this area.

Susan Yang, executive director of the Denise Louie Education Center, said demand for childcare has increased in recent months.

“At the start of the pandemic, we didn’t have as much demand because parents were trying to figure out what they needed for their children, and in recent months we have seen an increase in the number of families wanting to enroll their children in childcare.” Yang said. “At the moment we have lost around 22 staff, so it is difficult to balance ensuring we have the quality staff that we need and the ability to be able to support all the families there, and also for the duration when families need care.”

Yang said one of their concerns going forward is simply having enough staff to support parents who need care in the future, including for long periods. They have seen an increase in the number of people needing before and after school care.

“There are a lot of different pressures,” Yang said. “There are a lot of women who have left the labor market, there is a lot of data to support it. The salaries are also very low and the demands are very high. It is also difficult to find staff who want to be onsite when there are a lot of jobs they can do remotely, but wages are definitely one aspect of that.”

The Denise Louie Education Center, for its part, operates on the basis of a mix of funding sources, including federal, state and municipal funding and private families.

“We are following Build Back Better mainly because we hope they will add additional funds for compensation,” Yang said. “Parents can’t pay more, but teachers need more and with inflation and other pressures, especially in a city like Seattle, it’s important for us to be able to give back to teachers and staff.”

To learn more about Senator Murray’s proposal, click here.

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