As Children’s Alliance gears up for legislative session, one thing is clear: we are all going to have to step up our advocacy for kids this year. This week, people in Washington will have the opportunity to testify in front of the House Ways and Means Committee to make just that case.
When we do, we should keep in mind First Focus’ report released last week announcing that the Great Recession has doubled the number of kids with unemployed parents. As a result, more than one in 10 children in the United States are living with an unemployed parent. In Washington, that means the parents of more than 156,000 children don’t have jobs.
So it doesn’t make sense to us that one area being targeted in these tough times is Working Connections Child Care, a program that keeps parents working during a period of persistently high unemployment.
If you’re a parent with two kids like April Ritter in McCleary, Washington, cuts to Working Connections would replace a reasonable co-pay with $1,600 per month in new expenses. Since your monthly take-home pay of $2,500 still has to cover rent, food and basic medical care, you’re looking at a budget at the kitchen table that just doesn’t add up.
Some working parents won’t have a choice but to quit their jobs to make sure their kids are safe. And if they qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the family would re-qualify for Working Connections – meaning that they would have child care assistance while they go look for a job. On top of that, they have to find another caregiver. The result is higher costs to the state, financial instability for families and disruptions for kids when they’re in the greatest need of steady, consistent care.
A multitude of voices, from parents and child care professionals, to business leaders and economists, have all made the case that early learning is an effective and crucial investment for kids and for our economic recovery. And we’ll need everyone plus their friends, families and kids to help the Governor and legislature translate that into good choices for children this session.