Local leaders spearhead efforts to improve child care crises, improve opportunities for minority women

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — It takes a village to raise a child and local women leaders are spearheading efforts to invest in the child care workforce.

On Tuesday, the Democratic Women’s Caucus hosted a roundtable to discuss challenges facing child care workers that included Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), the DWC’s vice chair, and Dr. Sylvia Acosta, CEO of the YWCA Paso del Norte region. 

Members said the goal is to improve conditions rather than return to pre-pandemic models.

“We’re not going to let it go back to normal without kicking and screaming, so keep the faith.”

Obstacles facing child care workers include poverty wages — particularly for women of color — minimal training, support and career advancement opportunities, as well as the need for investments that upgrade and maintain child care facilities. 

“In El Paso, for example, we lost about 90 percent of our revenue during the closures,” said Acosta.

The American Families Plan was announced by the Biden Administration at the end of April and promises to invest in the foundations of middle-class prosperity through child care, but lawmakers are proposing more robust investments.

“It is not enough to restore where we were prior to the pandemic,” reads a fact sheet from the White House. “We need to build a stronger economy that does not leave anyone behind — we need to build back better.”

Funding the plan would come from tax increases for the wealthy.

In Texas, the annual child care cost for a toddler is $9,400 per child (about 10 percent of a two-parent household’s annual income) and 48 percent of people in Texas live in areas that do not meet the child care needs of the communities. 

The cost of child care grew by 2.2 percent in 2020 because of the increased costs to avoid safety risks, reports the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“We know that this is not a child care system that is working,” said Escobar. “It’s not working for parents, it’s not working for providers, and it’s certainly not working for kids.”

The American Families Plan would ensure low- and middle-income families won’t pay more than 7 percent of their annual income, which will benefit more than half a million kids in Texas under the age of 5.

Additionally, the American Families plan includes raising hourly wages of child care workers and also including compensation and benefits that match kindergarten teachers with the same qualifications. 

Child care providers sunk by 36 percent at the beginning of the pandemic and continue to struggle.

“One in four centers and one in three child care homes say that if enrollment stays where it is and no additional support comes forward, then they’re going to have to close in the next three months,” said Escobar. 

Access to child care will help women return to the workforce as more offices return to in-office work.

In the U.S., 4.5 million women lost their jobs because of the pandemic compared to 3.7 million men.

“And nearly 2 million women — who are traditionally child caregivers in the home — left the workforce,” said Escobar.

Although many are returning to the workforce, the rate of growth does not support the professional prosperity of women. 

The rate of job growth is so low for women that it would take more than two years to recover from pandemic job loss at last month’s rate of 161,000 jobs added per month.

“We talk about this as a recession,” said Acosta, “and this isn’t a recession — this is a she-cession.”

In April, fewer women entered or re-entered the workforce in the U.S. compared to data from March.

“Women were absolutely affected by this issue. When there was a decision about who was going to leave work, it was mostly women who left work to take care of their children,” said Acosta.

The Democratic Women’s Caucus said the pandemic exacerbated existing crises for working women and mothers, but they aren’t letting up. 

“Think of us as a dog with a bone,” said Congresswoman Jackie Speier, co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, “we are not going to waste this crisis.”

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