For families that need the most help, child care costs are about to drop

April 15, 2024

For more than a decade, Erin Farias has watched the low-income families who send children to the day cares she runs navigate America’s broken child care system. Many of those parents had government assistance for school tuition, but half the time, Farias couldn’t count on them to make their co-payments. They were still too high. 

Subsidies are supposed to make care more accessible for those with the most need, but families in many states still struggle to pay child care bills. To be considered affordable by the Department of Health and Human Services, they must cost no more than 7 percent of a family’s income. But in more than half of states — including Michigan, where Farias runs two day care centers — families on assistance are required to pay much more than that... 

Because of those high co-pays, low-income families that qualify for the program haven’t used it, said Anne Hedgepeth, the chief of policy and advocacy at Child Care Aware, a national advocacy group. Instead, those families may be putting their children in more informal care, or losing the opportunity to work because they don’t have child care at all. 

“The sheer existence of a co-pay is, for some families, a barrier,” Hedgepeth said. “Even if it’s only 100,000 families who will see a decrease, that’s still 100,000 families for whom scraping together that co-pay may have been challenging.”  

Improving stability for providers is the other part of the equation. The new rule would iron out a disparity between how families that use the subsidy — and higher-income ones that don’t — pay for care. That change could ensure that day cares receive funding sooner and more regularly, making it easier for them to budget and hire staff.

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Topics: Media Mention

Written by CCAoA