Without federal subsidies, child care providers contemplate raising rates, and parents are worried
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The deadline for child care providers to spend over $37 billion in federal pandemic-era subsidies — that’s the so-called “child care cliff” — is more than a month behind us. And now that the money’s gone, child care providers have to figure out how to make up the difference. One solution that’s on the table? Upping the price they charge parents.
To send your preschooler to Downtown Baltimore Child Care, it’ll cost you just over $1,700 a month. It’s nearly $2,300 for infants.
Executive director Hilary Roberts-King understands that’s a lot. “This amount is astronomical. I know that,” she said.
About 80% of that goes towards wages for staff, Roberts-King said. And with federal pandemic relief funds gone, the center is considering raising its rates next year by between 2% and 5%.
“Part of that is looking at our competitors and then talking about what the market will bear,” she said.
One person who’s part of that market is Jackline Lasola. She has two daughters here and has come to the center for a parent teacher conference.
Lasola is an M.D.-Ph.D. student and her husband is a medical resident. Even with a discount, close to half of their income goes to child care.
“So if tuition does increase with the next academic year, we absolutely cannot afford it anymore, unfortunately,” she said. “As it stands, we are kind of teetering on being unable to pay regularly.”
After Lasola graduates next month, she’d love to pick up shifts at the hospital and do some research before she starts her obstetrics residency. But to save money on child care, she might end up staying at home with her kids.
“It’ll be great to spend time with the girls, I think what’s frustrating about it is that it’s not as if it was fully by choice,” she said. “Nothing about the way the system works is made to support a two parent household that’s working.”
Single parents are frustrated too.
Yusra Scott lives alone with her 2-year-old daughter, who also goes to Downtown Baltimore Child Care. She recently started working four days a week as a hair stylist.
“I unfortunately can’t work Saturday because I don’t have anybody to watch her,” Scott said.
She gets an income-related discount on her child care bill, which brings it to $500 a month. She said that’s all she can manage.
And if child care were to get more expensive, she’d have to ask her family for help. “I wouldn’t like that,” said Scott. “You know, it may be something that they would be like, ‘well, we can’t.’”
But not having child care would mean not working. And she said that’s a non-starter.
“Well, I mean, what would I do?” she said. “I would be evicted. You know, no, that would not be an option.”
Scott hopes she’s making more money by next fall so she can cover any price increase. Otherwise, she said she’ll just have to figure something out.
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