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The Columbian: Herrera Beutler: Representative leads child care effort
‘Child care is crazy expensive.” Chris, a dad and engineer in Vancouver, told me recently he and his wife are paying more annually for day care for their young child than if they were sending him to the University of Washington. And in the case of college tuition, they could at least get a loan to ease the burden.
I hear these sentiments echoed by parents across Southwest Washington. As the demand for child care increases, the number of quality care providers has dwindled, setting up a crisis for working families struggling to find and afford care for their children. In fact, our region has been labeled a “child care desert” for its lack of quality, affordable facilities and providers.
To help families like Chris’, I’m taking action in Congress to make child care more affordable, increase the availability of care providers and facilities, and give families more tools to pay for it.
As many parents struggle to find access to affordable child care, we are continuing to experience a noticeable decline in the number of child care providers. I joined with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle and both chambers of Congress to write a bill to address this shortage.
The Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act focuses on rural communities by providing competitive grants to support the education, training or retention of child care workers. These funds can also be used to build, renovate and expand child care facilities in areas with child care shortages. Grant applicants would be required to demonstrate how they’ll increase the availability and affordability of quality child care.
Even if we can make progress on the affordability front, working parents need additional tools to pay the hefty price of child care. I joined with Democrat colleague Rep. Katie Porter of California, who juggles her work in Congress with raising three children as a single mother, to write the Family Savings for Kids and Seniors Act. This bill would more than double the amount of money families can set aside pre-tax in Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts to help pay for child care, preschool, summer day camp, and before- or after-school programs.
I’m also pleased to have recently helped introduce the Advancing Support for Working Families Act, which gives families in Southwest Washington the flexibility to access up to $5,000 through the Child Tax Credit immediately following the birth or adoption of a child. This money can help cover a parent’s leave from work or infant care costs.
Child care will continue to be a core need for residents here. It’s great that, thanks in part to the tax cuts and regulatory relief coming out of Congress, more and more people who want to work can find good jobs. Yet to increase opportunities for every family, it’s vital parents of young children who want to keep working can do so.
As a working mom myself, I understand that working parents face a multitude of responsibilities, tasks and pressures — and I will continue to lead this effort in Congress to ease the burden of finding and paying for quality child care.