Her Recession: Child care could soon be more affordable

SPOKANE, Wash. — Being a single mother is a juggling act. Arel Hungerford was put to the test with the pandemic.

As a single mother, she had to work to keep feeding and a roof for her family. Then, while working from home, she still had to figure out how to help her daughter learn virtually and then take care of day care duties for her son.

“It was just definitely, us single parents found out how truly strong we are,” Hungerford told 4 News Now.

While Hungerford had the stability of her job throughout the pandemic, payments for some things changed. That included child care.

“I wish day care, yes, it’s a needed thing, but I wish we didn’t have to give an arm and a leg to go to work,” she said.

Hungerford’s co-payment has fluctuated. At one point, because of the coronavirus, they didn’t have to pay a co-pay at all. But then she had to start paying again, fluctuating from $65 to $115. This summer, she said she’s supposed to start paying $359.

“I’d rather pay myself the $359 to spend the time with my kid, but unfortunately I don’t get that,” she said.

Although she still has to send her kid to child care, her co-payment could go down soon.

The legislature passed the Fair Start for Kids Act, making child care more affordable for families. In that bill, co-payments will be capped at certain price depending on median income. It will remain the same for some time, but then change in the future.

Families could also get more financial aid to help pay more of their child care costs. Families who use the state voucher system could also have more places to choose from as the bill will expand that.

“It’s such a relief for me, especially after COVID, which was a very difficult year on providers, on families being able to access care,” said Luc Jasmin III, the owner of Parkview Early Learning and the president of the Washington Childcare Centers Association.

The bill will also help child care providers. It will allow them to help give their workers access to health care, which it currently doesn’t for some places. Child care workers could get more pay, too.

“Not only are we able to pay them more, part of this bill earmarks that we have a 10 percent amount that goes directly to teacher compensation,” Jasmin said.

So, where is the money coming from for all this? Jasmin says it’s a mixture of state and federal funds. Part of it will be coming the recently passed state capital gains tax on sales of stocks and bonds.

While the bill passed the legislature, it still needs to be signed by Governor Jay Inslee. There is no date yet on when and if that will happen, but Jasmin believes it will.

“Any little bit helps. It’s tough out here. It’s really tough,” Hungerford added.

READ: Are you worried about your kids’ learning during the pandemic?