DALLAS (NewsNation) — Federal pandemic-era relief money for child care centers is set to run out in September, prompting growing concerns about how the child care affordability crisis may worsen along with it.
More than 70,000 centers could close without the additional aid, leaving more than three million children without care, according to a recent analysis from The Century Foundation.
Some parents are leaving their jobs to stay home, or are cutting back on their hours. Research shows the rise in prices could cost families $9 billion a year in lost earnings and cities just over $10 billion in lost economic activity.
Advocates say this system is failing, and the only way to fix it is to invest more money in these programs.
The cost of child care is up 6% year over year, the Wall Street Journal reported. That’s nearly double the inflation rate.
And the cost could go up even further when the federal pandemic-era relief funding for child care expires on Sept. 30.
It may even force millions of families to make tough decisions to leave their careers behind to take care of their children.
Morgann Hubbard quit her career in finance to stay at home with her kids because of child care costs.
“I was working, had a really great full-time job. That changed after they asked me to come into the office,” Hubbard said. “We are looking at another rent payment and half of a car payment just for full-time care.”
Families across the U.S. pay close to $11,000 per year on average for child care, according to Child Care Aware of America.
“The cost to provide the care is high, and the cost to parents is high. But because even as high as parents are paying, it still doesn’t actually equal the full cost of child care, child care teachers are still making only $13.50 an hour,” CEO of Child Care Aware of America Susan Gale Perry said.
During the pandemic, the federal government shelled out $24 billion in relief funds to help keep more than 200,000 child care programs afloat, The Century Foundation reported.
“The pandemic only further exacerbated the challenges of small business owners operating to provide care opportunities for children and working parents. What we need is a substantial federal investment,” Michelle Chang with the National Association for the Education of Young Children said.
President Joe Biden has announced a set of actions to help make child care more affordable for certain working families, including capping copayments at 7% of a family’s income.
“If child care was more accessible, I’d still be working full time without a doubt,” Hubbard said.
Some companies are also offering child care benefits in an effort to keep and attract workers. For parents struggling to find affordable child care, advocates suggest speaking with their local referral agency.
They can help connect parents with resources to find free care or help pay for care.