Report Unveils Seattle's Sky-High Child Care Costs, City Advocates for More State and Federal Support

Report Unveils Seattle's Sky-High Child Care Costs, City Advocates for More State and Federal SupportSource: Unsplash / Bruno Nascimento
Aisha Mahmoud
Published on February 12, 2024

In a telling sign of the times, the sticker shock of child care in Seattle has been laid bare by a new report, confirming what many already feel in their wallets. Commissioned by the City of Seattle's Department of Education and Early Learning and King County's Best Starts for Kids, the report revealed that Seattle and King County bear the heaviest childcare costs in Washington State. Families are caught in a financial tug-of-war, covering the majority of expenses while federal and state contributions lag, accounting for under 40% of total industry revenue, the study reported.

Despite some legislative progress, such as the Fair Start for Kids Act, access to affordable child care remains an aspiration rather than a reality for numerous households. Leilani de la Cruz, DEEL’s Early Learning Director, highlighted the severity of the matter, telling, “Child Care is essential to a thriving economy and ensuring that young children are safe and healthy. But it is also a fragile system where workers are underpaid, and families struggle to afford care.” Indeed, the city recognizes the need for deeper pockets at both state and federal levels to prop up this critical sector.

It's not just about accessibility, it's about sustainability for the caregivers themselves. Not lost in the conversation is the workforce that props up these childcare services. To keep these essential workers in the game, Seattle has taken tangible steps, including implementing Staff Retention Payments. Proud to support those on the childcare frontlines, the city has earmarked funds for a fifth round of these payments in the 2024 budget with application details forthcoming this spring.

As Seattle grapples with these challenges, the report serves as a crucial informant for the administration of the City’s Child Care Assistance Program and continues to fuel advocacy for bolstered investment in the childcare sector. Without foundational backing at broader government levels, the strain on families and the sector's very stability will persist, a narrative all too common across the nation’s cities.