The early learning experiences of children make a huge difference. Unfortunately, low- and moderate-income families are in desperate need of resources to help pay for child care. In Colorado, for example, the average cost of center-based child care [PDF] was $12,621 for an infant and $9,239 for a four-year old (in contrast, the average in-state tuition at a public Colorado four-year college was $7,849). Unfortunately, for many families, such help is hard to come by. In Colorado, a family earning up to 85% of state median income (around $58,000 a year for a family of three in 2013) may be eligible for child care assistance, but in many counties, the income limit is much lower. And a family of three with income at 150% of the federal poverty level (around $29,295 a year in 2013) would still have to pay $269 per month, or 11% of their income, in child care co-payments. For those families, $3,228 per year is a significant chunk out of their budget. And although Colorado offers a refundable tax credit for child care expenses, the current structure of the credit makes it almost impossible for low-income families to benefit.
That’s why a bill that has just been voted out of Colorado’s state House finance committee is so exciting. H.B. 1072 [PDF] would allow lower-income families with no federal tax liability to claim Colorado’s Child Care Credit. Supporters note that the tax credit that is intended to provide the most help to lower-income families, but “in real life,” they can’t claim it. As one parent who testified in favor of the bill stated, ““The passage of this bill would allow me to pay for four weeks of childcare during the five weeks of the summer that [my daughter is] off school. It would also give me the ability to pay off my electric and water bills.” She went on to say, “I don’t receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). I don’t receive Medicaid. I don’t receive any other assistance. But this would definitely help my family.” Here’s hoping that the national momentum behind providing a strong start for children will also help this Colorado bill get the attention it deserves.