How Louisiana is navigating the ‘childcare cliff’
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - States are dealing with a steep drop-off in federal child care investment. This comes as more than 70,000 childcare programs are projected to close, and more than three million children could lose their spots due to the end of the childcare stabilization grant program as of Sept. 30, 2023, according to an analysis by The Century Foundation.
The organization said this will have ripple effects for parents forced out of work or for ones who have to cut their hours, for businesses who will lose employees, and state economies that will lose tax revenue and jobs in the childcare sector.
The historic federal investment was part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that Democrats passed in March 2021. It supported more than 220,000 childcare programs, affecting more than nine million children, according to the Federal Administration for Children & Families. It reached more than 8 in 10 licensed child care centers, helping them hold onto workers by offering bonuses and raising wages, covering their rent, mortgage, and utilities, buying personal protective equipment and other supplies, and providing mental health support.
Reports show that child care is the single highest expense for just about all families as they struggle to find access to quality, early care and education. Currently, in Louisiana, there are 173,000 children that are at risk in our state. And of those 173,000, 159,000 of them don’t have access to quality, early care and education, according to the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children.
Libbie Sonnier, Ph.D., the Executive Director of Louisiana Policy Institute for Children said she’s seeing similar trends in the Capital Region. One of the issues is that childcare providers have a workforce issue, and it’s hard to find early care and education teachers who can stay and work in early learning centers. Another problem is long waitlists for childcare centers. Sonnier explains the biggest challenges families are facing right now.
“One is being able to afford quality, early care and education,” said Sonnier. “It’s finding what they need to meet the needs of their own families. You know, if you are a family that has shift work, sometimes childcare centers aren’t open long enough during your shift work. And so, you’re really trying to figure out where’s the best place for my child. The other component is we have a workforce issue.”
She said early care and education teachers in Louisiana make $9.77 an hour, on average.
For now, leaders are looking at the funding trends coming into the state. This past legislative session, Louisiana had a historic investment of $52 million dollars of the state budget going towards early care and education and childcare assistance for families working, looking for work, or who are in school.
“Because poverty levels have gotten worse due to the pandemic and funding is drying up, we’re going to see more kids that are at risk,” said Sonnier. “And we knew it would need to be able to meet the need to serve those kids. What we also know is that our kindergarteners in Louisiana, 60% of them, going into kindergarten are not ready to interact with kindergarten material. So all of this pre-COVID and post-COVID, we have a job to do, we need to make sure that we have access to quality, affordable childcare so that parents can go to work and school.”
Families can go to the Louisiana Department of Education where the child care assistance program is housed. Fill out your paperwork to get in line and on the waitlist to be able to afford access to childcare. It also helps leaders know how many families need the help.
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