Just Like Home Daycare Phoenix

Just Like Home Daycare Phoenix

Just Like Home Daycare Phoenix – Child care worker Missaaliyah Jackson uses electronic cards with Remi Goff, 2, at Premier Children’s Center in Phoenix on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Photo by Alberto Mariani |

When cases of the coronavirus emerged in Arizona in March 2020, Governor Doug Ducey announced statewide school closures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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At the time, it was the most important step taken by state leaders to prevent the disease. And for the staff and clients of Yuma Desert Trails Children’s Center who are concerned about the safety of their families, it’s a relief.

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“When the governor said schools were closing, people were really scared,” said center director Arianna Zaroff. “We only have 15 employees, and I’d say at least half of them,” after reflecting on the difficulty of knowing the realities of a low-income business, “actually quit.”

Also, “we lost families too soon,” he said. “Some days we have five, six, 10 kids at the center,” licensed in 78.

This means a significant drop in income due to mortgages, utilities and most other fixed expenses. It’s a “huge blow” to child care providers who, like many in Arizona, are operating on thin lines and struggling to pay staff, Zaroff said.

A $1.2 billion federal bailout helped end the funding cycle for Desert Trails and other facilities and prevent the entire sector from collapsing. But industry experts say even that amount may not be enough to overturn decades of childcare management in the hands of government leaders before the pandemic.

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Elected leaders cut state funding for child care when Arizona was in the red during the Great Recession and eventually ended state subsidies meant to raise wages. They refused to give that money back when the state was in the black, instead cutting big taxes that state budget analysts say will mostly benefit the wealthy. Meanwhile, officials have repeatedly spent federal funds, some of which have not done what they should have done to secure new funding, while others have left behind tens of millions of dollars in unused federal aid.

Those decisions increased the vulnerability of a system that wasn’t working so well for anyone but Arizona’s wealthiest families, who could face rising child care costs and shrinking public assistance.

In the two years leading up to the pandemic, Arizona has lost more than a fifth of its child care providers — nearly 900 workers — as they struggle to stay afloat with low wages unchanged for nearly 19 years. High inflation among workers, nearly 20% of whom lived in poverty, further contributed to the company’s crisis. And nearly half of Arizonans live in a child care desert, meaning there are more than three children for every available space and those who fall short, those who cannot be properly cared for.

From January to June 2020, the period spanning the first three months of the pandemic, 244 providers were suspended, according to the most recent data available from the Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

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“The child welfare system has tightened its belt and is operating on shoestring budgets and cutting costs to the point where it can’t be done,” said Kelly Murphy, vice president of policy for the Arizona Children’s Action Alliance. He said the pandemic has exacerbated “deeper issues that were a problem before COVID hit.”

The childcare sector is unstable and cannot reach children: they need safe care and proper development to enter kindergarten at the school level and the same environment where it is organized for long-term academic success.

Parents, especially single heads of families and those without vacation or other benefits, must properly care for children in order to survive and thrive. Additional constraints on access to quality care affect rural communities, low-income families, and working women.

During the pandemic, female labor force participation fell to its lowest level since 1988 as mothers took on the majority of childcare responsibilities at home. About 1.4 million women out of work this year are parents, and uneducated mothers continue to command the highest incomes, according to Census Bureau data.

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According to local and national experts, federal funding has provided an opportunity to rethink and address long-standing structural problems in the approach to funding and delivery of child care services. If officials don’t act, they say — and if Congress doesn’t pass a federal plan to reduce child care costs across the country — the state could end up back where it started when its funds run out.

“We’re years behind other countries in terms of making these investments last,” said Rasheed Malik, director of youth policy research at the Southern Center for American Progress. “It’s expensive, but it’s more expensive the longer we wait for a fix.”

Child development advocates have long warned about the volatile nature of Arizona’s child care market in the years leading up to the pandemic.

Providing reliable childcare is expensive. And important health and safety requirements “are not the kind of business you can skimp on,” Malik says.

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As a result, providers often pass the cost on to parents through higher tuition fees, making it more expensive for all but the top earners. During the pandemic, child care costs in Arizona were more than $8,500 a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute, while child care was about $11,000 a year. This is more than basic tuition at a public university.

“In childcare, the people who need your services the most can’t raise prices. You’re going to lose families because they can’t afford it.” Liz Barker Alvarez, first responder

“Most business models … if your costs go up, you raise your wages,” said Liz Barker Alvarez, senior policy adviser for the former. “In childcare, the people who need your services most cannot afford to pay more. You’re losing families because they can’t afford it.”

Providers who choose not to increase tuition fees typically rely on government subsidies for childcare. Families apply for assistance through the Arizona Department of Economic Security, which then pays the providers who serve those families directly.

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While not every family has access to help, for those who do, it’s very important: Dede Mitchell, a single mother of two daughters from Yuma County, says there’s no way she can when she provides child care. in recent years without the help of the state, although they work full time.

Rents in Arizona have long fallen short of the true costs of providing safe, quality care. Murphy of the Alliance for Action Against Children pointed to the reluctance of state lawmakers in recent years to make state funding a major issue.

Before the shutdown, Arizona allocated about $85 million in state funding for child care assistance, about 43 percent of total aid at the time, according to analysis by Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. Funding administered through the Federal Child Care and Development Fund, which aims to reduce child care costs for low-income parents, and Temporary Assistance for Poor Families, which provides financial assistance, covers the rest.

In 2010, state lawmakers cut Arizona’s grant by more than 70 percent to about $24 million. In 2011, then-Governor Jan Brewer made up the rest, including an additional $40 million in federal funds the state would have lost if First Things First, paid for through the tobacco tax, hadn’t stepped in. meet Arizona requirements.

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With the exception of $7 million to help children in Department of Child Welfare custody, “they haven’t transferred the rest of the money to the state level,” he and Murphy said. “We’ve been dependent on federal funding for the last 11, 12, 13 years.

Despite more than 20 attempts by a handful of lawmakers — mostly Democrats but at least one Republican — to increase child care assistance or raise rents using General Fund funding in previous years. Most of the bills failed to pass committee hearings in the Republican-controlled state legislature, which has been reluctant to increase spending on social services.

“One of those years (legislative leaders) said we don’t have the money,” the senator said. Lela Alston, a Democrat from Phoenix, has tried seven times since 2012 to increase child care funding. “Now we have the money and we’re trying to give more help to the rich with the same taxes.”

In approving nearly $2 billion in tax cuts earlier this year, Republican leaders said the move would keep more money in Arizonans’ pockets for residents to spend, but would go a long way toward helping their families. But that’s not a game-changer for low-income earners: The State Mutual Investment Board targets those making $50,000 or less.

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