Lawmakers have heard from parents, business owners and community-based leaders this legislative session about how to support the healthy development of babies, toddlers, preschool-age kids and their parents. Starting last year, parents and community-based leaders urged Governor Jay Inslee to make greater public investments in affordable child care. Then, State Rep. Kristine Reeves (D-Federal Way) proposed House Bill 1344, the Child Care Access Now Act, which passed the House on a broad, bipartisan basis last month.
We’re cheering on the Child Care Access Now Act as it moves, we hope, to full passage in the Senate and on to Gov. Inslee’s desk. The law sets up important mechanisms to study and respond to early learning’s affordability crisis. If the law passes and implementation proceeds, we’ll see profound and positive changes to early learning quality and affordability over the next five years.
But in the weeks ahead, lawmakers have an important opportunity to make a difference for today’s babies, toddlers and other young children—with greater public investments in Working Connections Child Care.
The state House and Senate budget proposals each propose increasing the Working Connections subsidy rate to child care providers. The rate paid by the state on behalf of income-eligible families is usually less than half the payment made by households paying market rates.
Children’s Alliance and our partners in the Early Learning Action Alliance favor the Senate’s approach. It brings Working Connections subsidy to 55 percent of the market rate in the first year of the next two-year state budget cycle, then brings it to 60 percent a year later.
This is a modest increase that’s also long overdue; a $160 million investment in Working Connections would do far more to ease the high cost of care and support the diverse field of early learning professionals who offer loving care to Washington’s children.
Parents, grandparents, community leaders and, increasingly, lawmakers know that child care is too expensive. This session, legislators have heard from caring professionals like Lois Martin, an early learning director from Seattle’s Central Area, who noted that demand for affordable care is so great that her center is accepting applications for child care for children who haven’t yet been born.
“The need is so great,” she told the Senate K-12 and Early Learning Committee last month. “It breaks my heart to turn away families.”
Raising the subsidy rates in Working Connections would let more families find quality child care at a price they can afford—and support the healthy development of thousands of Washington kids. Here’s one way to let your lawmakers know that you support greater investments in kids and families through Working Connections. Take action today.