Why states are stepping in to help parents with child care costs

Across the country, the story for families is virtually the same: Child care is unaffordable for many, hard to find for those who can pay, and financially precarious for day care operators and their employees.

The Biden administration and Congress tried to alleviate some of these problems when the pandemic took a toll on the child care industry. But as the record $52.5 billion in relief winds down, many states have stepped in with their own solutions.

States have expanded free preschool and early education and helped more families pay for child care, making it low-cost or even free for many. Recognizing that a federal solution is unlikely anytime soon, policymakers have come up with novel ways to pay for their plans, creating permanent funding sources that will make new programs sustainable.

Why We Wrote This

States are taking action to reduce child care costs for families. Their solutions offer a path for keeping parents in the workforce – and helping local economies. Part of the series, “Fixing the Child Care Crisis,” from the Education Reporting Collaborative.

New Mexico, for instance, has tapped into its petroleum revenue, Washington state put a new tax on investment profits, and Kentucky is incentivizing parents to become child care workers. 

And while the largest investments in child care have come from Democrats, Republican state lawmakers across the country are embracing plans to support child care – citing the importance to the economy.

New Mexico funding makes careers possible 

After she gave birth, Marisshia Sigala put on hold plans to start her real estate career. She and her husband – a personal trainer – lived on one paycheck for about two years and realized the cost of child care would be out of reach even if both were working.

Susan Montoya Bryan/AP

Marisshia Sigala picks up her son Mateo from the Koala Children’s Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 20, 2024. Ms. Sigala and her husband qualify for subsidized child care in New Mexico, providing them more flexibility to see more clients as they build their careers.

Then, in 2022, New Mexico made child care free for nearly all the state’s families, amending the constitution to fund early childhood initiatives with money from leasing state land to oil and gas companies. 

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