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Child care costs nearly double during pandemic

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 6:19 AM MST
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(CNN) - New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is putting an emphasis on safe in-person learning as school-age children return to classrooms this fall.

However, parents are finding that for kids too young for school, child care has become unaffordable.

Some parents are being forced to take drastic measures.

“I was quoted around $4,300, which is actually not the same price as my rent, but more than my rent,” said parent Tomia Mitchell-Haas.

She is dealing with a growing problem for millions of parents, child care costs, a problem made much worse by the pandemic.

A model developed by the Center for American Progress estimates average annual daycare cost for a toddler in the U.S. before COVID-19 was just over $9,000, but during the pandemic - it almost doubled to nearly $18,000.

Experts said relief may not be in sight for families anytime soon.

“We do think the costs will continue to remain high until these centers are able to operate again,” said Carrie Cronkey, chief marketing officer with Care.com.

This is especially a problem for lower-income earners, who experts say have had to resort to more drastic measures to find affordable care for their kids, including sometimes leaving work altogether and taking a massive financial hit.

“We saw over 3 million women leave the workforce over the course of the pandemic, and it’s not hard to draw that line between the lack of affordable child care and, you know, their ability to work,” Cronkey said.

So what’s behind the surge in tuition costs? Experts said it’s out of necessity.

“There are a variety of factors in play there,” Cronkey said.

Child care centers have increased expenses due to COVID-19-related protections, like hygiene products, while also losing workers, forcing many to decrease class sizes, according to experts.

Lawmakers are trying to help.

“I can’t tell you how many people have said to me in the last year that child care is the one issue that is keeping their family from being stable,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Under this year’s COVID-19 relief package, families get up to $3,600 for each child younger than the age of 6 in their household and up to $3,000 for any others up to the age of 18.

It also gives $39 billion to child care providers, and some of that must be used to help struggling families.

It’s help experts said is key to truly getting America back to normal.

“In order to really fuel our economic growth, care is an imperative.” Cronkey said.

President Joe Biden is campaigning for passage of his American Families Plan, which he said makes a “generational investment” in human infrastructure.

Democrats are hoping to push the package with benefits for working families, including child care, through Congress using budget reconciliation.

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