Our economy cannot recover without child care.

Before the pandemic hit, accessing quality child care was a challenge, with the average monthly cost for two children totaling $996. For 80% of all Louisiana parents, borrowing money to afford care is required to work. According to the 2018 ALICE report, there are 212,980 ALICE — Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed — households with children in Louisiana, unable to earn a survival budget, choosing between basics like food, medicine and child-care quality.

To make things worse, a report by the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children delivers devastating news. As of April 20, surveyed child-care providers reported an average loss of $26,000 per center, translating to an estimated $37 million in collective losses statewide. Over one-third said they might not reopen after an extended closure. As of early May, almost 70% of centers were closed.

Businesses of all sizes rely on working parents. We cannot let the child-care industry sink, nor can we afford to make child care even more difficult for families to access.

We understand why Gov. Edwards removed the $25.1 million in new funding for early care and education in his new proposed budget — he had difficult choices to make. But we urge legislators to find ways to increase funding for early care and education despite the circumstances in which Louisiana finds itself. We need it now, more than ever.

The only way Louisiana’s economy will revive in the coming months is if parents can get back to work. They will not be able to work unless policymakers support the child-care centers who are in danger of shutting down. Working parents who are reeling from the consequences of this pandemic need to access affordable quality care as they work to put food on the table.

The statewide Ready Louisiana Coalition has called for the state to:

  • Use one-time federal money, including funds from the CARES Act and other sources, to stabilize the child care industry.
  • Commit $25.1 million in new state funds to expand access to the Child Care Assistance Program for 4,000 more children and authorize coverage for parents actively looking for work.

Without the stabilizing action of our policymakers, child care centers are in danger of shutting down.

The Ready Louisiana Coalition is a bipartisan statewide coalition composed of businesses, chambers, United Ways and advocacy groups, united by the fact that quality child care and education is the backbone of our economy.

JIMMY BERNARD

co-Chair, One Acadiana Workforce & Education Committee

Lafayette