Press Release

Child Care is Out of Reach for Many Low-Income Families, New NWLC Report Shows

Posted on October 31, 2017

Most States have Less Funding for Child Care Compared to 2001

(Washington, D.C.) A low-income family of three with an income above $40,840 (200 percent of poverty) cannot qualify for child care assistance in 36 states—according to NWLC’s new state-by-state report. And families in many states who receive child care assistance are still forced to pay copayments exceeding 7.2 percent of their income—the average percentage that families pay nationwide, including those who do and do not receive assistance—so child care remains a significant cost burden or completely out of reach.

Persistent Gaps:  State Child Care Assistance Policies 2017 examines the subsidy programs that help low-income families pay for child care in each state and reveals the insufficient and uneven progress on policies across the country. The analysis compares data for February 2017 to data for February 2016 and 2001 on five crucial measures—income eligibility, waiting lists for assistance, copayments required of parents receiving assistance, payment rates for child care providers, and eligibility for parents searching for a job. These critical factors determine the affordability, accessibility, and quality of assistance in every state and the District of Columbia.

“It’s unacceptable that child care is inaccessible for millions of parents who are struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent,” said Helen Blank, NWLC Director of Child Care and Early Learning. “America must build an affordable and high-quality system that’s accessible to low- and moderate-income parents who need it most. Too many parents are forced to stop working or can’t even look for work because they can’t afford child care that would allow them to support their families. And too many children are denied the high-quality child care that would put them on a path to success.”

Report’s topline data include:

In February 2017:

  • A family of three with an income above $30,630 a year (150 percent of poverty) could not qualify for child care assistance in 15 states.
  • A family of three with an income above $40,840 a year (200 percent of poverty) could not qualify for child care assistance in 36 states.
  • A family of three with an income of $30,630 a year (150 percent of poverty) was required to pay a copayment above 7.2 percent of their income in 29 states.
  • A family of three with an income of $20,420 a year (100 percent of poverty) was required to pay a copayment above 7.2 percent of their income in 12 states.
  • 20 states had waiting lists or frozen intake for child care assistance, and the waiting list in five states (Florida, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas) had more than 20,000 children on each list.
  • Only two states—South Dakota and West Virginia—had child care provider payment rates at the federally recommended level, a significant decrease from the 22 states with rates at the recommended level in 2001. Low payment rates shortchange child care workers, leave providers without sufficient resources to support high-quality care, and discourage them from serving families receiving assistance.

NWLC child care experts are available to discuss the report in further detail and how child care assistance may face further cuts as a result of budget and tax proposals currently under consideration.

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For immediate release:  October 31, 2017
Contact:  Maria Patrick (mpatrick@nwlc.org) or Olympia Feil (ofeil@nwlc.org)

The National Women’s Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women’s equality and opportunity.  The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including economic security, education, employment and health, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.  For more information on the Center, visit:  www.nwlc.org.