SUNBURY – There’s growing concerns from parents in Pennsylvania and the Valley about finding high quality and affordable child care. It’s also costing Pennsylvania $2.5 billion annually. Those concerns were discussed during a recent round table discussion at the Greater Susquehanna Valley YMCA.
Panel members included representatives from the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission (ELIC), and Ready Nation…it’s a group that promotes solutions preparing children to success in education, work, and life. Steve Doster, state director of Ready Nation, “Only 39% of all child care centers in Pennsylvania currently meet high-quality standards, and in Northumberland County, we know that only 5.2% of providers are considered high-quality.”
These concerns stem from a new ELIC report with findings from a new statewide poll of working parents with children under the age of three. The poll documents how child care struggles are hampering efforts and productivity at work.
Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Garrett says it’s been a factor in low participation rate numbers, including less than 63% in the Valley, “That means that fully a third of the people who could be working are on the sidelines for one reason or another. One of the key reasons is access to quality child care, that folks are saying, ‘Hey, I got to stay out of the workforce because I can’t just depend on someone taking care of my children.’”
One Pennsylvania parent, Maggie Livelsberger of Carlisle, says child care is the biggest expense for her and her husband of 16-month old twins. Livelsberger says they also have only her income to pay for child care, “I am the only income in the household right now, and I earn just a little bit more than what I’d qualify for a subsidy, so I have no help in that department. We’re looking at $2,000 a month for child care.”
This year’s state budget proposal includes $15 million to serve an additional 970 infants and toddlers slots in high-quality programs. It also includes $10 million to provide a 28% increase for infant and toddler daily tiered add-ons for high-quality programs. State Representative Lynda Schlegel Culver was also among the panelists.