Congress examines how to address rising childcare costs for families & providers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More affordable childcare is needed nationwide, but many centers are struggling just to cover operating costs.

“We’ve been in survival mode for a while,” said Amy Brooks, executive director at the Early Care and Education Association.

That’s how Amy Brooks describes the current environment for childcare centers. She operated one for 20 years in New Hampshire and she said workforce is one of the biggest barriers for providers.

“Trying to balance keeping childcare affordable in a payroll heavy industry and not putting that burden directly on to parents,” she said.

Brooks said many providers won’t raise their prices which means it’s difficult to boost pay for employees.

“Any other small business, they charge the customer enough to help cover the cost of their workforce and their cost of operating, in child care we’re not able to do that,” she said.

This week, Brooks voiced those concerns directly to Congress during the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

“I work with these child care businesses on a daily basis and they tell me they are struggling to reach the break even point,” said Brooks during the congressional hearing.

Brooks said increasing prices at child care centers means fewer families who can afford those services.

This comes as one national study found this growing child care crisis is leading to $122 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue every year. Federal data also shows thousands of people have to stay home from work each month because of childcare problems.

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen believes something has to change.

“Families across America are relying on us to help childcare providers stay open and provide affordable care options,” said Sen. Shaheen, (D) New Hampshire.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst believes states may have some of the answers. She pointed to her home state of Iowa and how the governor helped create thousands of new childcare center openings.

“Governor Reynolds in my home state of Iowa is setting an example we can all learn from, she incentivized employers to provide childcare and encouraged local governments to collaborate with businesses of all sizes to address their community’s childcare shortages,” said Sen. Ernst, (R) Iowa.

During the congressional hearing, some experts also suggested expanding access to various childcare options.

“State and local lawmakers should consider establishing multiple levels of licensing standards with a goal of increasing those in home, faith based, and employer provided childcare,” said Rachel Greszler from the Heritage Foundation

Some lawmakers want to make it easier for childcare centers to access federal funding. One proposal would allow nonprofit providers to participate in certain loan programs of the Small Business Administration