Only 20% of families on a waiting list for state child care assistance say quality is the top issue in where their children are placed, according to a survey for an advocacy group released Tuesday.

Instead, 66% of families say costs and affordability is their top concern in making child care arrangements, the poll shows.

The survey was done for the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, one of the state's leading advocacy groups for child care, and the state Department of Education.

It quizzed families on a state waiting list for aid through the Child Care Assistance Program, which helps pay child care charges for low-income families while they work or attend school.

A total of 287 families of 1,635 on the waiting list last September responded to the survey.

The issue is one of the key topics of the 2020 regular legislative session, which is in temporary adjournment until March 31 because of the novel coronavirus.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has recommended a $25 million increase in state aid, which would trim today's waiting list for child care assistance by about 4,000 families.

The poll showed that nearly two thirds of families quizzed -- 65% -- said they borrow money from family or friends to pay for child care costs while they wait for state aid.

More than half of respondents said they forego basic household items to afford child care, including clothing, 79%; food, 65% and utilities, 54%.

The Louisiana Policy Institute said about 60,000 of 211,000 in need children have access to quality child care through public funding -- 28%.

"Over the last two decades alone the cost of center-based child care has increased by over 70%," the group said in a report that accompanied the survey.

"In Louisiana the cost of child care is nearly that of tuition at a four-year public university."

"However, unlike for college parents have not had 18 years to save, so affording quality, reliable child care can be an even greater financial challenge."

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