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Child care options could shrink, get more expensive when federal money goes away

One group estimates 70,000 programs could close due to lack of funding
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Posted at 5:30 PM, Sep 12, 2023

CINCINNATI — The child care industry could face a crisis after Sept. 30, when the federal money that helped them stay open runs out.

Whether it's helping pay employees a competitive wage or keeping up with demand, federal funds are a huge factor for child care centers across the country. Some owners said they are afraid if they don't get help soon, it's going to be the end of the line for their businesses.

Andi Eubank opened Play4Hours in Westwood last December. It started as a temporary four-hour model but now operates as an all-day facility. Eubank made the decision to switch the model because of demand.

"They want me to open in the evenings and on the weekend, and then they want to get discounted hours for people who do drop in because it is expensive for childcare," said Eubank.

Eubank said she knows her families are struggling to make ends meet working multiple jobs and putting their children through child care before they can attend school. This is why she was alarmed to find out about a new report from The Century Foundation, a progressive independent think tank, estimating 70,000 child care programs could close in the U.S. because of lost federal money.

In Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, that accounts more than 3,679 programs and 224,674 children without child care. Through the American Rescue Plan, Congress set aside $24 billion in stimulus money for child care, but that money runs out at the end of September.

"I don't know what will happen if parents aren't able to drop their kids off every week you know and go to work," said Eubank.

Congressman Greg Landsman is one of the co-sponsors of The Child Care Stabilization Act, which would provide $16 billion a year in emergency funding to keep child care programs afloat through 2028.

"Child care was a crisis before the pandemic, and it's now an even bigger crisis," said Landsman. "For a few folks, they can afford it and the job that they're taking pays well, enough but for most people it's just too tight."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), reports the Child Care Stabilization grants kept more than 220,000 child care providers open, allowing 9.6 million children to keep their child care. One in three child care programs that received stabilization support report that they would have been forced to close permanently without these funds.

"We really need people who want to work to be in a position to work and that does require helping folks with childcare so it's a smart investment," Landsman said.

This financial situation facing child care facilities is happening while more than half of the people living in the U.S. are living in a "child care desert." The Center For American Progress defines a child care desert as "any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that contains either no child care providers or so few options that there are more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots."

For many, paying a competitive child care employee salary can also be challenging. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found child care workers make on average $14.22 an hour, which comes out to $29,570 a year. However, the average salary for a child care worker in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky falls below the national average.

The average salary for child care workers is $28,180 in Ohio, $26,390 in Indiana and $25,530 in Kentucky.

Right now, the focus for lawmakers is passing a budget and avoiding a government shutdown since the fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

WCPO reached out to Tri-State Reps. Thomas Massie and Brad Wenstrup, but did not hear back from them in time for this story.

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