DeWine budget calls for more support for early childcare

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

State child advocacy group says childcare should be treated like infrastructure funding.

Nearly 70% of mothers with children under age five who do not work full time said they would go back to work if they had access to quality and affordable childcare, a recent survey by a state child advocacy group shows.

That’s one of the reasons Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he is calling for millions in childcare investments in his proposed state budget and why Groundwork Ohio says childcare should be treated like infrastructure.

Even before the pandemic, many families struggled to find affordable childcare and the problem has worsened since spring 2020. And daycare and childcare centers were forced to shut down during the pandemic and either had to close due to lost income or could not find workers when they were able to reopen.

According to Groundwork Ohio, a nonprofit focused on advocating for early childhood education, the current infant and toddler childcare crisis is costing Ohio an estimated $3.9 billion a year in lost earnings, productivity and revenue every year.

“Our budget will make available childcare for more working families,” DeWine said during his State of the State address. “Many Ohio parents must choose between taking on full-time, full-year work or staying unemployed or underemployed, because they cannot afford the high cost of childcare.”

DeWine has called for an investment of $150 million of federal COVID-19 funds given to Ohio to provide childcare scholarships and increase capacity for infants and toddlers. DeWine also called for an expansion of the state’s publicly funded childcare program from 142% of the federal poverty line to 160%, which would get 15,000 more children and families access to care.

DeWine’s budget also calls for an additional $46 million per year in Early Childhood Education grants, which is estimated to expand preschool to an additional 11,525 children.

“One of the things we heard from Black women was that access to childcare was a barrier for them,” said Lynanne Gutierrez, Chief Operating & Policy Officer for Groundwork Ohio.

Groundwork Ohio supports the governor’s budget proposals, but Gutierrez said the organization would like to see two additional priorities: allocating $30 million of Ohio general revenue funds in the next two years to increase childcare especially in Appalachian communities and communities that have high infant mortality and increasing proposed funding for preschool by an additional $46 million for the next two years.

Montgomery County is one of the communities with high infant mortality, especially among Black babies. In 2015, Ohio was the 11th worst state for infant mortality, and Montgomery County’s infant mortality rate was higher than the state’s, according to Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County.

Shannon Jones, president and CEO of Groundwork Ohio and a Warren County commissioner, said in a survey Groundwork Ohio conducted in 2021, 60% of the women surveyed said they would either go back to work or work more hours if they had access to quality childcare. A recent survey released on March 2 showed that increased to 68%

“The data was really telling us that childcare is an economic issue,” Jones said.

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