Child care remains major obstacle for many trying to return to work

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As businesses are reopening and companies are hiring, employers are struggling to find people to fill those positions.

A major obstacle, according to the North Carolina Justice Center, is child care.

Data provided by ChildCare Aware America says the average cost for an infant is $9,650 a year in North Carolina.

That’s 38 percent of a single parent’s average income.

Extra: A look at child care programs still open in March 2021

It drops slightly for a toddler.

To put that in perspective, that’s more than the average cost of in-state tuition for schools within the University of North Carolina system.

“Those businesses that are starting to open up pay very low wages, well below the living income standard. And we know those in situations it’s very challenging for working families to make ends meet. Particularly now when we see that many folks have lost income over the past year, the ability to afford care in their community for their children is really challenging,” said Alexandra Sirota, who is the director of the Tax and Budget Center with the NC Justice Center.

There is an income-based child care subsidy.

But out of the nearly quarter of a million who qualify, there is only money for 17 percent to actually get it.

That is forcing many to choose between working or staying home with their children.

It is also harder to find child care.

“Most of our child care providers are businesses themselves and when they don’t have revenue from parents it’s more challenging to stay open,” said Sirota.

Fifty-two counties now have fewer childcare facilities than before the pandemic.

Hundreds of thousands of North Carolina children at or near the poverty level could be helped by money in the American Rescue Plan.

North Carolina received its share within the last two weeks.

Gov. Roy Cooper has outlined how he wants child care dollars to be spent.

Now it is in the hands of the North Carolina legislature.

“It does support employers and the ability to bring in workers and attract a high-quality workforce and because it supports children’s educational attainment over time and their ability to earn higher wages as workers.”

All factors are to get and keep North Carolina’s economy rolling forward.

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