Bonus check! One year free! How states are trying to fix a broken child care

“We have a teacher who is in university now, and then another teacher who has a child development associate degree,” he says. “So we need to be able to pay them better … as the years go by.”

Mejia pays her teachers 17 17 an hour. Now, it’s well above the national average of 13 13 per hour which makes childcare one of the lowest paid professions in the country. But in expensive DC, it’s above the minimum wage, which has risen to $ 16.10 since July 1st. Mejia earns about $ 30,000 a year. Her profit margin is so thin, she will occasionally give up her own salary to pay the bill, and she stays behind in taxes.

He says his salary bump will help pay those return taxes first. One of her teachers, Anna Gonzalez, says it will help her eventually achieve her goal of having her own home; He and his 24-year-old daughter plan to buy something together by sharing the cost.

The Treasury Department considers US child care a market failure

Over the years, families and providers have struggled with a system that the U.S. Treasury Department calls a market failure. President Biden proposed a large long-term investment to raise the wages of child care providers and make it affordable or even free for working families. But that plan remained in Congress.

“Our primary education system is in a really fragile state,” said Kimberly Perry, executive director of advocacy group DC Action.

Perry says this year’s bonus checks to DC providers will introduce a conversion that began before the epidemic. In 2018, he helped push families through legislation to help pay for child care – the most expensive in DC at more than 2,000 a month – and teachers paid the same amount as public schools to address the shortage of primary education teachers.

“Their colleagues in the public school system, by doing comparative work, could start their careers at $ 60, $ 63,000 a year,” Perry said. “It’s a big gap.”

Damaris Mejia says the profit from her home childcare business is so low that she occasionally gives up her salary to pay the bills. (Jennifer Luden / NPR)

The new law was meaningless until last year, when the city council passed a tax increase on wealthy families. Among other things, it will fund bonus checks for child care providers this year and later, until salary increases become regular paychecks. But the tax increase will cover less than a quarter of what is said in the law.

Thousands fled the field when COVID-19 forced the closure of childcare centers across the country, and primary care expert Elliott Haspel said the industry was still suffering from the worst labor shortages. He says it has become crystal clear that if elementary educators don’t show up for work, millions of others won’t be able to do the same.

“You can quite legitimately argue that if you want to reduce deficits, increase economic productivity, help with supply chain, help with inflation, child care is a key economic principle,” Haspel said. “Crawling Behind: America’s Child Care “The author of. The crisis and how to fix it. “

That’s why Haspel, Perry, and others say the United States should invest more in child care, and that federal funding is the only real solution. Haspel says this is even more urgent with the reversal of Rowe v. Wade last month, as women who refuse abortions are more likely to fall into the abyss of poverty. But at the moment the United States ranks below the rich countries in terms of government spending on primary education.

“Even for low- and middle-income children who are eligible for subsidies under the current system,” Haspel said, “only one in nine is actually getting them,” mainly due to lack of funds.

The United States lags far behind the richest countries in terms of the number of mothers with young children in the labor force. Recent research suggests that childcare subsidies could allow more than one million U.S. mothers to work full-time.

More money does not always solve a complex problem

Last year, Texas Services offered free one-year child care for industry workers. It was a bid to boost tourism and economic recovery, by employing more people. But it was a bust and hardly anyone recorded. Lawyers are responsible for bureaucratic hurdles in implementation and disconnection from working hours.

Cody Summerville, executive director of the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children, said, “Employees in your service industry often work evenings, nights, weekends, and rarely receive any care during those times.”

Summerville says Texas is also using federal epidemic assistance to provide significant grants to child care providers and they have a lot of flexibility about how they can spend it. This money could go to rising rents and utilities, higher wages or a signature bonus to lure teachers, or further training to give them a way to improve. Yet, he says, fierce competition continues as other industries raise their own wages.

“We see across the state, even with increased funding for the field, child care is still struggling to attract and retain staff. And most centers across the state have waiting lists,” he said.

What’s more, he says Texas is only able to provide child care subsidies to 7 percent of families who qualify for them, even below the national rate. That means more than 40,000 waiting lists. And in addition to that waiting list, there are many frustrated people like Tabitha Berkman.

Tabitha Berkman of Stamford, Texas, says she and her husband earned only ড 23 from the cutoff to qualify for child care subsidies, yet are unable to pay for care. (Courtesy of Tabitha Berkman)

“We do a lot to get help, but we can’t really do enough to help ourselves,” said the mother of three, who lives in Stamford, Texas.

Her husband is a truck driver, and in the past she has worked as a behavioral educator assistant on the mental health of at-risk children. He says in three different states they have failed to qualify for any kind of assistance. Most recently, even on her husband’s income alone, they were thought to be উপরে 23 above the cutoff.

Berkman is looking for work and is open to whatever you can find in Abilene, about 45 minutes away from his small town. He said there is no point in taking a job if everything he earns goes to child care, but it is difficult to get a job without any coverage. He only lost two positions because “my availability and flexibility were not for them.”

In the meantime, “I’m just starting work wherever I can, it’s cutting someone’s lawn, sweeping the toilet, everything and everything.” He says he’s great on a budget, and “I fed a family of 5 and 2 dogs for $ 65 a week.”

New Mexico wants to create its own universal child care

In New Mexico, Rosalinda Velarde says she and her husband are lucky to have wonderful baby care, and they gave low subsidized rates before the epidemic.

“Anywhere between $ 130 and $ 170 for monthly child care,” she says, “so it still made a lot of money.”

But nowadays, they give nothing. New Mexico is using federal epidemic assistance to dramatically expand subsidies, providing free childcare not only to low-income families but also to the middle class. Velarde says it’s a life saver, especially with a new baby, and her husband’s recent career has switched to truck driving. Plus, of course, the price for everything is inflated.

“Now, instead of using it for baby care, I’ll use it for gas,” she says with a laugh. “You know, it’s either a bill or something.”

But that expanded free childcare – like the cost of other childcare across the country – is set to end next summer, when federal aid will stop. Many lawyers are concerned that this will bring more pain for providers and parents.

Expect New Mexico push cushions. In fact, its epidemic costs are part of a long-term project aimed at “building a universal, high-quality, and family-centered early childhood system,” said Elizabeth Groginski, the state’s secretary of early childhood education.