Access to childcare has accelerated into a crisis since the 2020 COVID pandemic. Thanks to the foresight of the Washington Legislature, which passed SHB 2367 in 2018 a Child Care Collaborative Task Force (C3TF) has been formed to collect data and develop policy recommendations. Task force members include childcare providers, parents, advocates, legislators, community members, and business community representatives.
Survey data tell the depth of the story: In 2019, the C3TF commissioned an assessment report on the scope of the problem in Washington State with key findings: 49% of Washington parents found it difficult or very difficult to find, afford and keep childcare; 27% quit their jobs or left school or training due to child care issues; the estimated direct costs of turnover and missed work due to child care issues is $2.08 billion; the total estimated direct and opportunity costs due to this issue is $6.5 billion!
Expanded scope of work in June 2021: The task force expanded its scope of work in June 2021 to implement a plan to achieve accessible, affordable childcare for all Washington families by 2025. The Legislature also passed the Fair Start for Kids Act in 2021 by investing $1.1 billion to make child care and early learning more affordable for low-income parents.
The December 2022 True Cost of Childcare Report to the Legislature attributed the childcare crisis to market failures because it had not been financed as a ‘public good’ such as K12 education. The subsidy structure under the Fair Start for Kids Act provided a cost model to inform legislators about program affordability for parents and financial stability for childcare providers. This report synthesized four recommendations to increase access to affordable, high-quality care for children and families.
- Adopt a rate-setting model for reimbursement rates that provide living wage salaries, benefits, and resources for program enhancements that support quality childcare.
- Provide significant relief payments to licensed childcare programs and individuals who provide childcare services.
- Develop plans to deliver wage supplements and benefits to the childcare workforce to support a transition to quality childcare rate-setting model.
- Create a comprehensive workforce and economic development strategy in partnership with providers, parents, and stakeholders.
WR will remain engaged with the developments from the C3TF as their work on this issue directly impacts retailers, our members’ workers, and their invaluable childcare providers.