Nevada Newsmakers

News - October 8, 2021 - by Ray Hagar

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Nevada is facing a crisis with child care, as the lack of it or cost of it are forcing mothers out of the workforce and slowing the economic recovery, Nevada's 3rd U.S. House District Rep. Susie Lee, D-Las Vegas, said on Nevada Newsmakers.

"When you look at what we need to do to get this economy back on track, making sure families have access to affordable child care, to me, is on top of the list," Lee told host Sam Shad. "It is something I hear every, single day from my constituents, that they struggle. If you are going to work and you're making about $40,000 a year, and you're spending $15 an hour on child care, it makes it hard to pay other bills."

A study showed the average annual child care costs in Nevada are $10,229 (more expensive for infants) which is about 18 percent of the national median household income. Nevada ranks 20th overall in child-care expenses in the state-by-state by

"Nevada is one of 33 states in which it costs more to provide child care for your infant than it does to send a child to a four-year public university," Lee said.

Lee mentioned that Nevada is listed as the 2nd worst "child care desert" in the U.S., according to a recent Center of American Progress report. Seventy-two percent of the state's children live in that desert, which is defined as areas with an insufficient supply of licensed child care. Only Utah trails Nevada in this report, at 77 percent. Overall about 51 percent of U.S. children live in a child care desert, according to the report.

"There just are not enough slots available for them (Nevada mothers) to access child care," Lee said. "Not only that, we saw women leave the work force in incredible numbers. If this country is going to be competitive economically, we need to get women back to work. We need to make sure they have options and availability to affordable child care."

The pandemic only worsened the problem, Lee said. A Nevada Current report from 2020 showed that Nevada’s child care providers struggled to stay open with at least 20 facilities permanently closing in a five-month period last year.

Lee has been busy with child care issues.  Last month, she announced that nearly $1 million has been awarded to Southern Nevada colleges and universities to support campus-based child-care programs and enable parents to obtain their degrees.

In April, she announced that the American Rescue Plan will provide more than $361 million for Nevada child care providers to open safely, keep workers on the payroll, and lower costs for  families.

In May, Lee and Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nv., introduced bills in their houses that would help non-profit child-care providers qualify for loans to expand their child care businesses. The bills would allow non-profit centers access to loans that are now only available to for-profit child-care providers.

"I have a bill, the Small Business Child Care Investment Act, which would open up for non-profit child care providers to be able to access SBA loans so that they can expand their operations," Lee said.

Lee and Sen. Jacky Rosen are also working other angles to improve child care.

"We're looking at, in the Build Back Better Act, to cap what a family would pay on child care at 7 percent," Lee said. "We also need to invest in workers. You have to pay them well and you need facilities."

The Build Back Better Act has a large child-care component, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The existing Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit would expand so parents and caregivers could claim up to $8,000 in day-care costs per child or adult dependent, capped at $16,000 per year per taxpayer or household.

The bill also mandates increased salaries for child care workers. Many were lost for good during the pandemic, in part because they oly made minimum wage.

The bill would also grant nationwide access to pre-k instead of the current state-by-state laws and policies, according to the also sent out a news release touting two other child care bills she helped pass. One, the Ensuring Children and Child Care Workers Are Safe Act, creates state grants for outreach and technical support for child care providers. Also, the Child Care Protection Improvement Act creates a task force to help states in implementing employment requirements for child care workers.

"As you all know, I am an education advocate and early-childhood education to me is our biggest bang for our buck," she said. "But making sure we have accessible, quality child care that is affordable for families, I think, is just a just a vital piece of economic recovery."

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