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As childcare costs and needs increase, providers and parents ask for county support

Spokane's Parkview early learning center
Rebecca White / SPR
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Parkview Early Learning Center has a waiting list of around 80 families. The center's co-owner says its challenging to hire the staff to meet the growing demand of families who need childcare to return to work.

A group of advocates is asking the county commissioners to increase their support for childcare as the industry shrinks and costs for parents go up.

Many of the women staying at Transition’s supported housing center are underemployed, or locked out of the job market entirely, said Tara Mugica, vice president of non-profits living center.

“I just had a mom move in yesterday who works full time at a fast food restaurant,” she said, “She has one child, she doesn't qualify for childcare funding, she works fast-food 36 hours a week. But those income limits, with one child, so she's paying a thousand dollars out of pocket. So, absolutely, access to those funds to that kind of graduated system. Would be lifechanging for her. It’s the reason that she's here and not living on her own is because all of her money is going to childcare and not to rent.”

Mugica, who is also a mother, said she’s paying $1,200 a month to be able to work. She said most parents pay around $1,800 per a child.

According to a 2020 report from the Washington State Department of Commerce, nearly half of people who aren’t working in the state say childcare is a barrier to employment.

She’s one of a group of providers, parents and advocates asking for local governments to spend Federal COVID-19 recovery funds on childcare.

The state has rolled out a solution, increasing the number of parents eligible for support in 2025. Local advocates say until then, local governments need to pitch in. Spokane Valley and Spokane have already allocated some Federal COVID recovery funds, and providers are now looking to the county.

“We would love to not come back over and over asking for funds,” said Luc Jasmin III co-owner of Parkview Early Learning Center, “but until we have that long-range plan for early learning, which is in the works and in the way, we do need those continual investments.”

The County did allocate some federal relief funds in 2020 and has about $50 million left to allocated and spend by 2026.

County Commissioner Josh Kerns said commissioners will likely allocate some funds to childcare. He said supporting childcare businesses directly may not be sustainable. But he is open to supporting tuition, especially for those involved in a job training, pointing to funding the Spokane Workforce Council recently received.

“They’re gaining training to go get employment,” he said. “It would allow them the funds to hopefully transition off and hopefully they would be able to pay for the childcare themselves down the road.”

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.