Affordable childcare is lacking in Washington state, officials say

The Department of Commerce said there is not enough affordable childcare in our state

OLYMPIA, Wash. – According to the Department of Commerce, over 133,000 Washingtonians are missing out on jobs because they can’t afford childcare.

The department found that the pandemic has exasperated this problem and they’re working to change it.

A map from a study shows the percentage of families in each county that lack childcare. In Benton and Franklin Counties, over 50 percent of families simply can’t afford childcare or can’t find a facility that caters to their needs.

“If we don’t fix it, employers are deprived of the talent they could have in the work place and parents fall further behind in terms of career opportunity,” Director Lisa Brown said.

Brown added for some parents, mostly women, the cost of staying home with their children, is more affordable than returning to work and finding daycare.

RELATED: Millions of dollars in assistance available for Benton County childcare centers

“How much will I make going in the workforce and how much will it cost me to not only have those work related expenses but also paying childcare?” Brown said it’s one of the many questions women have faced in the past year.

A State Task Force found the pandemic has caused a ‘she-cession,’ or her recession; more mothers are forgoing work to stay at home with their children because they can’t find affordable daycare.

Washington does have a subsidy program that assists parents with care, but Brown said, it has its downfalls.

“One, not enough people qualify for it and there are people in that gap where they could use a little bit of support with childcare. They may not need the whole thing paid for but some support would help fill the gap,” Brown added often times, daycares don’t accept the subsidy, “there’s a cliff, where, you start to get a raise or more hours and you’re bringing more money in and then your childcare subsidy drops so far that you are actually worse off,” she explained.

READ MORE: COVID-19 burdens local child care providers 

The study found that this problem is also affecting women of color much more.

“There are a lot of Latinas and women of color who are childcare providers. Without state support, the wages they earn just aren’t high enough, they wouldn’t have enough money to put their own children in child care,” Brown said.

Washington also has several childcare deserts; where affordable and quality care centers are few and far between.

So, how does this issue get fixed?

Brown said there’s work going on a at the state level to make more families eligible for some form of assistance.

With pandemic guidelines, daycares have also had to up their cleaning, provide PPE and other measures leading to a higher cost. The department wants to help care centers throughout the state to be open, high quality and affordable.  

The State Task Force plans to start implementing a comprehensive childcare plan in June of this year.