Families struggle to keep up with rising childcare costs

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Less than three months after Hannah Sharp enrolled her 2-year-old son in daycare in Boise, Idaho, he tested positive for COVID-19.

The toddler, Emerson, had been exposed to the virus at the small family center by an unvaccinated teacher. Fortunately, the symptoms were mild and he recovered quickly.

But Sharp didn’t want to come back to the same center. When she desperately started calling other daycares in the area, she was put on waiting lists for several months. And the costs had skyrocketed.

“I was paying $ 700 a month. When I started looking, the cheapest I found was $ 950 and the most expensive was over $ 1,200. I couldn’t afford it, ”says Sharp, who works in nonprofit communications. “The price has just increased due to the growth of housing in our area. There is huge demand and very, very, very little supply.

Hannah Sharp with her children Mia and Emerson in Boise, Idaho.

Rising inflation in the United States, which peaked in three decades in October, up 6.2% from a year ago, is forcing consumers to pay more for everything from rent for energy and food.

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While the workforce shortage caused by the pandemic has affected all industries, the childcare sector, which has lost 36% of its workforce due to the closure of centers due to from the low number of registrations, struggles to recover workers.

About 80% of child care providers said they experienced staff shortages in a June survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. In Idaho, 91% of centers reported labor shortages.

The national median hourly wage for child care workers – $ 12.24 as of May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – hasn’t helped either.

“In Idaho, the average salary for a child care provider is around $ 10 an hour,” says Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children. “People just don’t show up when they find out how much they will be paid. They can go to a Walmart or a hamburger restaurant and earn an extra $ 3-4 an hour.

Beth Oppenheimer, Executive Director, Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children

Beth Oppenheimer, Executive Director, Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children

Nationally, the average price of a one-bedroom apartment increased by 20% between September 2020 and September 2021, according to Apartment Guide’s annual rental report. During the same period, rents in Boise increased by 49%.

“With the state’s average child care wages, people just can’t afford housing,” says Oppenheimer.

As centers seek to fill niches with more competitive salaries and a 15-20% increase in costs, families are feeling the squeeze.

Even though the average early childhood educator only earns just over $ 12 an hour, personnel costs represent about 70% of a child care provider’s total budget, according to the Center for American. Progress.

“For years and years, families have struggled to afford child care costs,” says Oppenheimer. “Now child care providers can’t compete with wages without raising their fees and a lot of families can’t afford it. “

And it’s not just wages that drive up costs.

“The cost of food is increasing, cleaning supplies are more expensive and we are trying to find ways to compensate teachers who are not being paid their fair value,” said Dawn Meyerski, executive director of the Mount Kisco Child Care Center. in Mount Kisco, New York. York.

Although Meyerski has yet to increase the cost of care, she said it was “likely” that she would charge more in September.

Child care costs in daycare increased 41% year-over-year, according to a report by LendingTree, which analyzed data from a September 2020 report from the Center for American Progress and Child Care Aware. of America. That translates to $ 14,117 per child, up from $ 9,977 before the pandemic.

In Georgia, for example, the annual cost of child care has increased from $ 6,568 to $ 14,121.

Child care providers in Georgia and Florida have seen annual costs for children ages 3 and 4 increase 159%.

Atlanta resident Jameia Thomas, who worked as a janitor last year, said she pulled her 2-year-old from a daycare program when she decided to start her own business as a counselor spiritual.

She was paying $ 200 a week at her old daycare. A few months ago, when she tried to re-enroll her son in daycare after returning to her part-time job as a janitor, none of the facilities accepted her son for less than $ 350 a week.

“I can’t afford it. I have to depend on my family to help me,” she says.

Meanwhile, Boise resident Sharp finally found a Montessori school for her now 3-year-old son in August.

“I was asking everyone I knew and posted online, like asking for help and recommendations and got a suggestion online on Twitter about this school,” she says.

Emerson Sharp, 3, has just started Montessori School in Boise, Idaho.

Emerson Sharp, 3, has just started Montessori School in Boise, Idaho.

At $ 1,000, the price was steep and more than she could afford, but luckily for her, the July Child Care Tax Credit Audit came just in time.

“I couldn’t afford it without it,” she said. “My son had speech delays and being in a learning environment I can see rapid growth and vocabulary skills over the few months he was there and it was so wonderful.”

Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy is Housing and Economics reporter for USA TODAY. Follow her on Twitter @SwapnaVenugopal

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Inflation impacting childcare costs on rising wages, prices of goods

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