WASHINGTON — Many families know first-hand how expensive childcare can cost.
A new study is shining a light on how much the prices have skyrocketed during the pandemic, leaving many parents struggling. According to a national report from Lending Tree, childcare costs spiked more than 40% during the pandemic.
Households with children younger than 5 years old saw the biggest impact.
In the District, the Under 3 DC Coalition is working to help.
"Just before the pandemic, the average cost of infant care was a little over $2,000 a month. That’s very high. For many people, that is almost the cost of their mortgage," said Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen with Under 3 DC.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average annual cost of infant care in Washington, D.C. is $24,243, that’s $2,020 per month.
"The main goal of Under 3 DC is to build a D.C. where families with young children, or who want to have children, have the resources and support they need for those children to thrive," said Anbar-Shaheen.
"We live in an economy where most parents and caregivers have to work. In that environment, childcare becomes something that many, many families are relying on," Anbar-Shaheen .
Naomi Gamoran lives in Washington, D.C., and became a first-time parent during the pandemic.
"When we first started looking at daycares, I had no idea how much they cost and it was definitely a shock," said Gamoran.
When she was 12 weeks pregnant, Gamoran and her husband started putting their names down on multiple waitlists.
"We put ourselves on eight waitlists and we knew to do this because my brother was in the area and he told us get on waitlists right away. We did this when I was maybe 12 weeks pregnant, we started putting our names on waitlists, we heard back from three of them and the other five we just never heard back from. We spent a lot of money just putting ourselves on waitlists, and most of them didn’t have room," said Gamoran.
"I can only imagine what it’s been like for families that are working paycheck to paycheck, working jobs where they don’t have any sick leave that they just have to take time off when they get COVID or when their childcare closes," said Gamoran.
Their family is not alone. Many parents around the region are also facing this same struggle.
"I have lots of friends and people that I know that have also done that calculation and found that actually, in their job they are making just as much as they would pay for daycare or just about the same amount, so a lot of families are making those decisions," said Gamoran.
"Families in the city that are making minimum wage or making not a a living wage, how in the world can you afford the astronomical prices of daycare," said Gamoran.
"I would like to see daycare to be affordable, not just for families like mine they come from a lot of privilege but really for all families in the city. I think daycare is such an integral part of a child’s life and I think that if we want families to be able to work, if we want parents to be able to have a work-life balance and be able to sustain and support their families, we must be investing in our daycares," said Gamoran.
Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen with Under 3 DC said rising rents and a shortage of staff both contribute to higher childcare costs.
"Teacher salaries are the biggest driver of the cost of childcare. When we have to incentivize teachers to stick around, you may see programs raising salaries and therefore the cost going up and you know, if the rent is going up and the cost of supplies is going up, they may have to increase. That is some of the tension that childcare providers are facing when they are trying to keep prices low for families," said Anbar-Shaheen.
To help bridge the gap, Under 3 DC is advocating to fully-fund the Birth-to-three for All DC law, passed by DC council in 2018.
"Two really big exciting pieces of the Birth-to-three for All DC law, first publicly financing teacher salaries for early care and education. It will mean essentially that DC is helping providers bridge the difference between what they can afford to pay their teachers and what teachers should be making compared to a DC public school teachers make. The big final goal is to expand affordability so that no family pays more than 10% of their income for childcare," said Anbar-Shaheen.
"That’s where we’re heading, really just focusing on building the infrastructure for once we get that point for the system to be able to actually support families once they get there," said Anbar-Shaheen.
We also checked in across Virginia and Maryland to see what resources are available.
In the Commonwealth, the childcare subsidy program helps families pay for childcare costs for children under 13 years old who are not eligible to attend public school, or children with special needs under 18 years old.
The Virginia Department of Social Services also provided a resource guide to help Virginians navigate the child care landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Maryland, your family can also take advantage of the childcare scholarship program.
"What I would tell parents is, learn about what’s available in your community, what the options are for affordability in your community and then join with other groups who are raising their voices," said Anbar-Shaheen.