This piece was published on the Arizona Capitol Times on August 26th, 2021
Right now, Arizona is experiencing a child care crisis. Costs and demand for high-quality child care are on the rise in Arizona. Now, with the pandemic forcing one-third of the state’s licensed child care providers to close, parents are left with nowhere to turn while workers lose their livelihoods. As parents, advocates for children, and policy experts, we know first-hand how critical quality child care is for our children, families, and local economies.
To fully address our state’s child care crisis, the Senate must support President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda, which guarantees access to high-quality, affordable child care for low- and middle-income families and provides universal free preschool to all 3- and 4-year-old children. This historic investment will set our children up for success throughout their lives and strengthen our communities. Investing in child care will boost our local and national economies. A recent study has found that the nation’s child care crisis costs the country $57 billion a year in lost earnings, productivity and revenue. Expanding access to affordable child care and supporting the Build Back Better agenda will give 29,532 more Arizona parents the option to work and will generate $3 billion of new economic activity in our state. This plan will also support child care providers and ensure that child care workers are paid a living wage of at least $15 an hour. Beyond being the right decision for our children and working families, investing in child care is the right choice for our economy.
Quality child care is critical to a child’s development and long-term success. Children enrolled in quality early care and education programs build early literacy skills, and develop basic social, emotional, and problem-solving skills that prepare them for formal schooling. Studies have shown that children who participate in quality early care and education programs are more likely to graduate from high school, obtain a job, and make a higher income than peers who do not. Providing access to quality early care and education can also reduce racial and income gaps in academic outcomes and performance. By investing in universal free preschool and expanding access to quality child care, the Build Back Better agenda will ensure that Arizona’s children are on a path to success from the start.
Arizona families are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of child care. Right now, the annual cost of infant care for one child eats up 19.8% of a median family’s income in Arizona. At $10,948 a year, infant care in Arizona is now more expensive than tuition for public college. Arizonans can’t keep up with these skyrocketing costs, which is why Congress needs to put money back into the hands of working families and invest in affordable child care. By covering the cost of quality child care for low-income families and ensuring that middle-income families pay no more than 7% of their income toward child care, the Build Back Better agenda will save average Arizona families thousands of dollars.
Arizona can’t let the child care crisis go on any longer. We need Congress to support our communities and invest in our children, families, and child care providers. We urge Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly to support the Build Back Better agenda and deliver the child care and early learning investments Arizona needs to strengthen our communities.
Kelley Murphy is vice-president policy, Children’s Action Alliance and Rebecca Gau is executive director, Stand for Children Arizona.