[Editor’s Note: Robert Patterson has been a leader at Omaha’s Kids Can Community Center for the past 23 years. Kids Can is a nonprofit organization the provides early childhood and out-of-school care. He testified before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee in support of LB1203 which allocates a portion of Nebraska’s American Relief Plan Act (ARPA) funding to strengthen Nebraska’s early childhood system statewide. This guest blog post is adapted from his written testimony.]
As a child care provider and advocate, I support all aspects of LB1203. Section 2 of the legislation addresses assisting families by waiving copayments and covering lost income for providers. These copayments, sometimes called Family Fees, are assessed for each household that utilizes child care subsidies. My concern has always been that some of these fees are pretty hefty, especially for families who are already low-income, many circling poverty-level status.
I want to share a couple of real-life examples from our families and how these fees can affect their monthly budget and impact their ability to provide a quality life for their kids.
- The first family has two kids in our after-school program, but is required to pay a $206 each month to access child care subsidies.
- The second family has two children in our after-school program and two in our early childhood program. She is a single mom going to school full time to be a nurse and also has a part-time job as an LPN. She is charged a monthly fee of $247, nearly $3,000 per year. That is more than 8% of her annual household income.
- The third example is a multigenerational home with two children in our early childhood program and four school-agers at home. They are charged $469 each month. That is over $5,600 per year, or 16% of their household income, for a family already deemed “low income” to receive child care subsidies.
For median-income families, the cost of child care can easily equal all other household expenses, including rent or college tuition. For lower-income families who are already struggling to make ends meet, child care would be unattainable without subsidies. But when large copayments are imposed on them, they are forced to make impossible decisions like whether to put money toward child care, or food, or clothes, or utilities, or health care. By waiving these copayments, you would alleviate one more obstacle for families looking to move out of the cycle of poverty.
The past two years have been tough on everyone. But I can attest it has been twofold for our parents, many working frontline jobs in food service, first response and health care. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is the importance of child care is finally getting recognition as an integral piece of sustaining our workforce. On behalf of child care providers, like Kids Can, who never stopped providing care in the past two years, I ask for your support of LB1203.