Why Delaware Should Update How it Funds Child Care
Affordable child care is an evergreen issue that predates COVID-19. But as we wrote in September, the pandemic forced many child care centers to severely limit their enrollment or close their doors entirely. Delaware’s child care centers have relied on federal CARES funding to support centers and families through “enhanced” reimbursements, but that money has been extended only through January for now. Without a greater financial investment and continued reimbursements, Delaware could permanently lose 1/3 of its early learning providers.
To help avert a potential crisis and preserve the child care industry, you can take action with the Fund Our Future campaign, which includes 20 partners: child care providers, unions, and community and advocacy groups.
Heading into the 151st General Assembly, Purchase of Care (or POC)—a state subsidy that helps centers cover tuition for low-income families—will remain a priority. Child care for one child costs approximately 20 percent of the median family income, or around $13,000 per year per child. The problem is: POC doesn’t come close to covering the true cost of care in Delaware and only serves 23 percent of eligible children.
Today, POC only pays at the 75th percentile of the true “market rate,” the figure that providers charge families for care. In order for Delaware to fully invest in our youngest learners, it must increase investments in POC to cover the cost of care rather than just a percentage of the market rate. We anticipate a revised market rate study by February 1 and a cost of quality care study by June 2021. The hope is that we can identify how much funding we need and enable the state to set state rates for child care that provide adequate funding to support child development and a living wage to the early learning workforce.