California Fails to Meet Demand for Subsidized Child Care

California Fails to Meet Demand for Subsidized Child Care

Sacramento, CA

In California, more than two out of three families with children who are living in poverty include someone who is working. 

In 2015, however, the cost of child care for an infant and school-age child in a licensed center was equal to 99 percent of the annual income for a single mother and two children living at the federal poverty level ($19,096). 

Just recently, the California Budget and Policy Center (CBPC) revealed that far fewer families with low and moderate incomes receive subsidized child care today than before the Great Recession. 

Subsidized child care and development programs are funded by both the state and federal government. Such funding provides the critical assistance needed to help many families make ends meet and allows them to avoid difficult choices about where to leave their children while at work. Today, in a majority of instances, the state is unable to meet those needs. 

When the soaring cost of child care is added to the high price of housing and other expenses and then weighed against funding for the state’s subsidized child care and development programs—there is a substantial and widening gap—largely because such programs continue to operate at below pre-recession levels. With inflation-adjusted funding well down from 2007-08 levels due to state budget cuts, it is easy to judge the widening gap between funding levels and growing needs. 

The unmet need for subsidized child care in California is tremendous. In 2015, according to a CBPC analyst, an estimated 1.5 million children from birth through age 12 were eligible for care; however, only 218,000 children were enrolled in programs that could accommodate families for more than a couple of hours per day and throughout the entire year. 

There is little question child care subsidies provide job stability and have been shown to increase parents’ earnings. Such subsidies also allow families to afford higher-quality child care where their children can learn and grow. 

Increased support for families struggling to afford child care is critical, especially given that the cost of child care and nursery school nationally has outpaced overall inflation since the end of the Great Recession. 

Sadly, six out of every seven children eligible for subsidized child care did not receive services from state programs in 2015.

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