There is a childcare crisis in Pennsylvania, according to state Reps. Tina Davis (D-Bucks) and Melissa Shusterman (D-Chester).
With the COVID-19 pandemic largely behind us, many employees are being asked to return to the workplace. However, for those with young children, this is easier said than done due to the rising costs of care.
Eighty-five percent of parents, said the legislators, spend at least 10 percent of their income on childcare, which roughly equates to $12,000 annually.
And that’s if they have one child.
Last Tuesday, Davis and Shusterman held a news conference in Harrisburg to celebrate passage of House Bill 1259, which would work to ease the financial burden on working parents.
The bill would build off the federal Child and Dependent Care tax credit program, which passed as part of the 2022-23 state budget. The program gives a PA tax credit based on income and the amount of childcare-related expenses that filers claim on their federal tax return. Typically, these credits range from $180 to $630.
HB 1259 would ensure recipients receive 30 percent of their childcare expenses, or a maximum of $3,000 for one child, $6,000 for two or more. Tax credits would begin at around $900 for one child, $1,800 for two or more. Ultimately, the bill would incrementally expand/increase the existing PA tax credit each year, providing additional relief to parents, as well as keeping up with any inflationary pressures.
“This bill passed the House 141-62. The time is now to invest in our working parents,” said Shusterman. “They would like to get back to work, but they need help to get back to work so they can safely, and with confidence, send their children to Pre-K and childcare.”
Davis said this is just one spoke in a wheel of things that need to be done to help working parents: “We feel this is a great way to get started and I believe that this is gonna help put some pressure on the Senate.”
Over 50 chambers of commerce and the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association signed letters in support of the legislation.
Several were in attendance at the news conference, including Trish McFarland, president of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce. As a working mother of three daughters, she understands the struggle firsthand, and expressed her support of HB 1259 for the benefit of families and employers alike.
“It is apparent that there’s a lack of human capital and infrastructure needed for job creation and economic growth in all industries, including hospitality, manufacturing and human services, to name a few, who need employees,” said McFarland. “This is why the lack of affordable and accessible childcare is a business and workforce issue … 60 percent of parents reported being late for work, leaving work early or missing full days of work due to childcare issues.”
Representatives from other chambers of commerce shared similar thoughts, making it clear that the childcare crisis doesn’t discriminate among suburban, urban and rural communities — it’s rampant throughout the entire commonwealth.
Delaware County Rep. Carol Kazeem, a working single mother, discussed the struggle of paying for childcare, while also staying on top of other bills and putting food on the table. Sometimes, a parent is one leaky roof away from not being able to pay for childcare.
“Imagine those families who also have children with special needs, who need an extensive amount of support from a childcare provider. That increases the amount of childcare,” she said, adding that parents in her district spend 30 percent of their median household income on childcare.
Kazeem concluded her remarks by thanking Davis and Shusterman for thinking about these constituents: “It’s a great day for working families.”
Davis added, “With return-to-work policies in full swing, families are once again faced with steep childcare costs and difficult decisions. This bill would provide a much-needed tax break to families throughout the commonwealth. Our children deserve exceptional childcare, and parents should be able to provide it without worrying about breaking the bank.”
After passing the House with bipartisan support, HB 1259 heads to the Senate for consideration.
Additionally, Davis shared that a tax credit bill for businesses that assist people in securing daycare will soon be announced.
“Working families are gonna get more money in their pocket,” she promised.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org