Her Recession: Bill to make child care more affordable passes, helping parents get back to work

SPOKANE, Wash. — Child care is about to cost some families less, especially helping women who have been feeling the effects of the pandemic.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the pandemic is hurting women’s employment. Many women are being pushed out of the workforce, having to stay home with kids during the pandemic.

While Kayla Wambold was not laid off from her job, she was able to find child care. Her sister is watching her children and is getting paid by the state to do it through the Friends, Family and Neighbors program. Wambold still has to pay a co-payment, working through the Department of Children, Youth and Families.

As a single mother, she needs all the money she can get to help provide for her two daughters. Her co-payment for child care is supposed to skyrocket this summer from a little more than $100 to nearly $500.

“It’s kind of crazy. Almost $500 for a single mom? It’s, I don’t understand,” Wambold said.

Co-payments are based on how much money a person makes, and Wambold’s income just went up a bit.

“Just because I make a little more money does not necessarily mean I can pay more,” she said. “Capping it at a certain price would help a lot.”

Luckily, it will. The Washington Legislature passed a bill called the “Fair Start for Kids Act” to help make child care more affordable.

The bill will cap co-payments, increase financial aid for families and change the qualifications to help even more families access affordable child care.

Some families have to use the Working Connections Child Care program to help get subsidies and eligibility switched from looking at federal poverty levels to state median income.

“Up until this last year, I don’t think people really realized where children are and how much support children and families need,” said Senator Claire Wilson.

On Friday, Governor Jay Inslee signed that bill into law in conjunction with a celebration of child care providers.

“The folks who provide child care are unsung heroes. Every day, including during the pandemic,” he said before signing the bill.

Not only will it help children and providers, but it will help the economy as well. A previous report from a Washington State Department of Commerce task force said more than 133,000 people statewide were kept out of the workforce in January because they couldn’t afford child care. With having to pay a little less, it could help bring more people back to work, especially women who have left the workforce.

“This is very important. We know we lost some women in the workforce because of some challenges with child care. This is an economic growth strategy as well as an issue based on compassion and love of our children,” Inslee said.

That love for children is why many people do what they do – the child care providers who help nurture and care for children, and moms like Wambold working to make sure her daughters get what they need.

Not only will the “Fair Start for Kids Act” help families get affordable child care and get more women back into the workforce, it will help child care providers keep the lights on and retain staff. Child care centers will be able to access more grants and they will be able to provide health care for their workers, which some did not before.

Money to fund the Fair Start For Kids Act is partially coming from the capital gains excise tax, which Inslee also passed this legislative season.

Some families will start seeing a change in their co-payments starting as early as July.

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