It seems today that nothing in government brings people together more than talking about how far they are apart. With fewer examples of compromise and collaboration in Washington, D.C., it is important to highlight instances where Republicans and Democrats are willing to come together to tackle big issues that will impact the most vulnerable in our society. Coloradans should be encouraged by a renewed willingness in Congress to address the increasing costs and demand for child care facing working families.
In Colorado, the majority of families of young children have parents in the workforce, meaning families must find child care. There are only 201,808 licensed child care spaces in the state, but more than 250,000 kids under age six in Colorado are in need of child care. Thousands of children have no licensed child care options. Altogether, 51 percent of Coloradans currently reside in what’s known as child care deserts. This includes Pueblo County, where there are more than three children for every one licensed child care slot.
The term “child care deserts” refers to communities that have more than three children for every licensed child care slot. One might not expect to find a desert in communities such as Pueblo or Denver, but access to quality, affordable child care remains a big problem in Colorado and across the country. Thankfully, legislation that recently has been introduced in the U.S. Senate would go a long way toward increasing access to child care.
The Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act would provide competitive grants to support the education, training or retention of the child care workforce. It also will help to build, renovate or expand child care facilities in areas with child care shortages. In light of the fact that, in many states, the average cost of infant care is now higher than the annual cost of college tuition, this represents much-needed and welcome reform. Child care deserts are harming our children today and limiting Colorado’s potential for future economic growth.
Perhaps the most encouraging component of this legislation is the fact that it enjoys the support of Democratic and Republican members of Congress. In the Senate, the legislation was written jointly by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Dan Sullivan. In the House, Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson are the lead sponsors.
The Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act also is rightly being praised by independent child advocacy groups. When announcing the legislation, Mark Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network, said that the legislation “will ensure that more parents can enter or remain in the workforce while knowing their children are enrolled in the type of quality care that lays a strong foundation for their future success.”
Access to quality, affordable child care is key to a thriving state and national economy, yet for far too many families in Colorado this reality remains out of reach. The Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act will ensure that more parents can enter or remain in the workforce, while knowing their children are enrolled in the type of quality child care that lays a strong foundation for their future success. By supporting this legislation, Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet would illustrate their commitment to embracing bipartisan solutions. The child care supply issue in our state is far too costly and widespread to ignore.
Joe Mahoney is the executive director of Catholic Charities of Pueblo and Burnie Zercher is an executive member of Executives Partnering to Invest in Children in Pueblo.