Families in Chester County are working harder than ever. COVID-19 has not only proven to be a public health crisis, but it has exposed the existing crisis for quality and affordable child care as well. Parents have adjusted to functioning as full-time employees, providing for the daily needs of their children, and helping with virtual school at home. The responsibilities and anxieties of parents have multiplied, leaving most feeling overwhelmed and struggling to find support. Working families urgently need access to safe child care resources.
Government, non-profits, and local businesses have a responsibility to work in tandem, thinking outside the box, to find solutions for the child care crisis. According to the 2020 Overlooked and Undercounted Report from PathWays PA, Chester County is the most expensive county to live and work throughout the Philadelphia region. Families need to earn about $93,000 annually just to meet their basic needs. “We find that Pennsylvania families struggling to make ends meet are neither a small nor a marginal group, but rather represent a substantial proportion of the state,” the report finds. By far, the largest expense for families is child care, which costs more than housing if both parents work full-time and if more than one child is in day care. In Chester County, families with two children in daycare will pay $2,649 a month while the average housing cost is $1,285 for that same family.
COVID-19 has particularly exposed the disparities in resources for working moms. It is critical for government and non-profits to provide child care funding to help working moms who are struggling to balance their time between working to pay for their mortgage, taking care of their kids, and paying for their child care. According to the Chester County Fund for Women and Girls’ most recent Blueprint Report, on average in Pennsylvania, 40% of a single mom’s annual income goes to child care. Elected officials, non-profits, and community partners need to ensure that this fact remains at the center of their discussions for how to help those experiencing child care issues.
In response to the urgent need for quality, affordable and safe child care, Chester County Government has made available $10 million in child care assistance for families who are forced to decide between work and taking care of their children. An additional $5 million in grants will fund the child care organizations that need to implement specific measures to keep children safe while in their care. These two grant programs are part of a total $28 million Chester County Government initiative that is also supporting our public schools and non-profits, two mainstays also severely impacted by COVID-19.
Non-profits, philanthropy, government and local businesses can and must work together to identify and provide resources that make child care more affordable for working families. Supporting these families will help rebuild our economy and create equity in the workplace. Now is the time to double down on our efforts by addressing the urgent need for child care resources.
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