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Not Enough Affordable Child Care

Lack of child care assistance is jeopardizing Arizona parents’ ability to get and keep jobs and diminishing our children’s learning opportunities during the critical early years. Currently there are no state dollars in the Department of Economic Security child care assistance budget – we rely on federal dollars alone. In their budget request for next year, DES has asked for no child care funding and there is no indication of how many children will be able to participate.

A recent report by the National Women’s Law Center reveals that despite the great importance of child care, this was the second year in a row in which the situation worsened for families in more states than it improved. The report, Downward Slide: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2012, shows that Arizona parents who are lucky enough to participate in child care assistance face a $320 monthly gap between the real life cost of child care and state reimbursement rates (for parents in Maricopa County with a four-year-old child). This 38% gap is the eighth largest in the nation.

This by itself would be bad news, but in reality the story is much worse. In 2009 the state began turning qualified working families away from child care assistance to cut state spending. In 2008 more than 27,000 children in Arizona working families received child care assistance; today that number is fewer than 9,000. There are currently nearly 8,000 children on the “waiting list” and more than 32,000 children have been turned away since the list started.

Before you vote early or on November 6, ask the state legislative and Congressional candidates in your district what they will do to open quality child care options for low-income working families.

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