Sep 28, 2022 - News

Child care help coming to Virginia

Illustration of a stroller with a "help wanted" sign hanging from the push handle.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The pandemic may be over, at least via presidential declaration, but the child care issues that predated COVID-19 and were exacerbated by it are still very much here. Two new statewide initiatives — one of which goes into effect this weekend — seek to help address the issue.

What’s happening: On Oct. 1, a new state methodology for reimbursing child care costs to providers in the state’s child care subsidy program begins its two-year pilot phase.

  • Funded with COVID relief money, the program will reimburse providers the true cost of child care instead of the market rate, Emily Griffey, chief policy officer for Voices for Virginia’s Children, tells Axios.
  • It also shifts reimbursements from locality to regional-based, meaning funds — and child care providers — can be shared region-wide instead of per each city or county.

The federal funds, for two years, will pay the child care providers more — and allow the state to study the impact of fair pay on early childhood development.

  • The program also allows child care providers to transfer background checks from one job to another, making it easier for quality workers to find quality jobs.

Why it matters: Child care centers continue to experience severe staffing shortages that limit the amount of slots they can open up within a facility.

  • “The issue child care is facing right now is a deep workforce issue. There’s no one to staff those classrooms,” Elliot Haspel, the senior early childhood education program officer for the Robins Foundation, tells Axios.

Nationwide, the child care industry is down nearly 90,000 jobs since February 2020.

Child care has always been an undervalued and underpaid profession, Haspel said. But as other industries — like restaurants and retail — raised wages, child care centers didn’t have the profit margins to keep up with pay.

Meanwhile, child care costs continue to creep up, exacerbated by inflation.

  • Virginia is ranked 10th-highest in the nation for child care costs, per Voices for Virginia’s Children.
  • The average annual rate for an infant is $14,063 and $10,867 for a preschooler.

What’s next: The state will roll out new copayment rates on Jan. 1 for families that participate in the state’s child care subsidy program.

It could save some families $600 or more a year, per Voices for Virginia’s Children.

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Richmond.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Richmond stories

Richmondpostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Richmond.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more