Child care facility leaders to Rep. Bustos: Wages are too low to retain workers

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MOLINE, Ill. (WMBD) — Child care providers say they have a hard time retaining staff in a field that is 96% women and the average hourly wage is $11.65.

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) on Thursday, April 1, spoke with local child care providers about the impact of the pandemic. The American Rescue Plan provided more than $39 billion for child care and development block grants, with about $1.5 billion earmarked for Illinois.

"We were able to get grants for about 5,000 child care providers in 95 of our state’s 102 counties, and that funding helped three-fourths of the grantees cover as much as half of their expenses," said Bustos.

Bustos said the grants helped retain more than eight out of every 10 employees working in child care facilities, but child care leaders say its hard to keep them long term.

"You cannot attract people, and if you do, they will leave you for 10 cents an hour somewhere else. When you’re paying low wages, it’s hard to attract people," said Laraine Bryson, president of Tri-County Urban League in Peoria, a lower-income facility that relies on government subsidies.

"One-third of child care workers are living 200% below poverty line. This is why it is such a struggle to be able to bring on and then retain child care workers," said Kris Machajewski, CEO of YWCA of Northwestern Illinois in Rockford.

Marcy Mendenhall, president and CEO of Skip-A-Long in Moline, said child care needs to be viewed as a career instead of a job.

"We need to do a whole awareness campaign about early childhood education meaning and how it can transform our field…We need to make this long term investment for our states to have predictability, our child care providers to have predictability, and staff," Mendenhall said.

"These child care centers really are the fabric that helps women support their families, they really are the backbone of what’s keeping them at work," said Machajewski.

Bustos said more help is on the way beyond the ARP. She said American Jobs Plan, announced the previous day on March 30 by President Biden, includes $25 billion to upgrade child care facilities and increase the supply of "desperately needed childcare."

"The common theme… is we have a shortage of childcare, people you need to hire, and there is some structural changes that need to take place as kids start coming back," she said.

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April 1, 2021 at 06:04PM

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