Childcare is about to get even more expensive at the end of September unless Congress acts
- Federal funding helped keep more than 200,000 childcare providers afloat in recent years.
- But this funding will run out at the end of September.
In four months, parents across the country could start seeing their childcare costs rise even further.
During the pandemic, Congress provided over $52 billion to states to support the childcare system, which helped 220,000 childcare providers stay afloat, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
But on September 30, $37.5 billion of this funding will run out, according to a new Senate report, which could have significant consequences for these providers and the families that rely on them.
"We have a child care crisis in America that we have got to address," Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement. "The American Rescue Plan provided critical funding that made child care available to millions of children and allowed child care programs throughout our country to stay open. If Congress does not act by September 30th to renew these funds, millions of working families with children will be at risk of losing the quality care that they need. We cannot allow that to happen."
Even with the additional funding, finding and affording childcare has remained an obstacle for many Americans.
Since 2000, the cost of childcare has risen 115%, well exceeding the 74% growth in overall inflation. In 2021, the average annual cost of childcare in the US was roughly $10,600 per child, per the advocacy organization Child Care Aware. A January Department of Labor analysis estimated that childcare for a single child costs between 8% and 19% of the median family's income. As childcare centers have struggled to attract workers, some have been forced to close or accept fewer children.
The Senate report cited an October survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children of over 12,000 early childhood educators. It found 43% of childcare center directors surveyed said they would be forced to raise tuition when funding runs out.
"Now that childcare funds are going to start fading away, the cost of childcare is going to go up again and become even more unaffordable for the middle class families," Cindy Lehnhoff, Director of the National Childcare Association, told Insider in December.
Providing states additional childcare funding could be an uphill battle. While Sen. Sanders is not alone in his desire to expand funding, the debt ceiling fight has illustrated how reluctant many many representatives in Congress are to increase federal spending.
In addition to spending concerns, some representatives think more time is needed to evaluate just how the existing funds have been spent — and what impact they've had. According to the US Government Accountability Office, solid answers to these questions might not come until 2025 or 2026.
"It kind of blows my mind that we would dramatically increase funding without knowing how the existing funding is being spent," Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said in a statement.
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