As the so-called “great resignation” grips the U.S. labor force, the nation’s capital is offering a hefty financial incentive to a vital industry struggling to stay afloat.
Childcare workers are struggling. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, their national median hourly pay in 2020 was $12.24, or $25,460 annually, just below the poverty line for a family of four. As a result, like millions of others, these workers are leaving in droves for better-paying jobs.
Washington, D.C. is taking steps to prevent more from leaving. Last week, the D.C. Council voted unanimously to offer daycare workers between $10,000 and $14,000, with the amount determined by whether they are assistants or directors. Last year, the council raised taxes on the city’s wealthiest residents, setting aside $53.9 million of those funds to increase pay for childcare workers, who earn a median salary of $39,197, nearly $34,000 short of the city’s average annual salary.
The council created a task force charged with finding the best ways to increase wages for child care workers without increasing the daycare cost for families, who are already paying an average of $2,000 a month.
The task force’s plan involves what the council says is a two-step solution: a one-time “supplemental” payment for this year, followed by the creation of a system to give permanent raises to childcare workers with available tax revenue. A more detailed report on this system is expected by mid-April.
“We depend on early childhood educators to nurture our children during their most foundational years and care for them so parents can go to their jobs. It’s the work that makes all other work possible,” tweeted council member Janeese Lewis George.
Child care is the backbone of our economy.
The predominantly Black and Brown women who do this work have been underpaid for decades despite being asked to educate our children during their most foundational years.
Today we start paying them much closer to what they deserve. https://t.co/dKsYSpozKT
— Janeese Lewis George (@Janeese4DC) February 1, 2022
While D.C. stands out in its efforts to improve the livelihood of childcare workers, many state officials and advocates nationwide are looking at ways to put more emphasis on those workers. Some recent examples are Oregon, where advocates are pushing for universal healthcare, Texas and Michigan, which are seeking ways to increase funding.
Despite a gradual uptick in employment since the beginning of the pandemic, the child care industry is still missing over 100,000 workers since February 2020.
Additionally, the cost of childcare has proven more expensive than in-state college tuition in up to 33 states, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In New York, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello addresses this in a press conference.
“It’s more expensive to have your infant child in daycare than it is to send your teenager to college. That is an incredible burden on parents,” Bello said. “Daycare must be a priority for our entire community,” said Bello
Michigan Senator Adam Hollier, a Democrat, believes the cost of childcare in his state is unsustainable. “In Michigan, the average family pays $10,861 for a year of child care. That’s not sustainable. It’s hurting our families and our children. We need a generational investment in affordable child care and pre-k, so every kid has a stable foundation to learn and grow,” tweeted Hollier.
President Biden’s Build Back Better plan emphasizes increasing child care funding through subsidies to ensure that low and middle-income families don’t pay more than 7% of their income in child care. It also establishes universal preschool. The bill has seen many of its initially proposed plans cut, so there is no guarantee this child care plan, nor the bill itself, will pass.