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Affordable childcare isn't really affordable in Florida

Central Florida kids are officially on summer vacation, which leaves lots of parents looking for affordable childcare. (Flickr/Province BC)
Central Florida kids are officially on summer vacation, which leaves lots of parents looking for affordable childcare. (Flickr/Province BC)

Central Florida kids are officially on summer vacation, which leaves lots of parents looking for affordable childcare. Inflation has made everyday living even more expensive. According to the Florida Office of Early Learning, parents are paying an average of $160 to $230 per week for childcare. 

WMFE's Talia Blake spoke with Sadaf Knight, CEO of the Florida Policy Institute,  about the state of affordable childcare and what help is available, if any.

[caption id="attachment_199579" align="alignleft" width="334"]

Sadaf Knight is the CEO of the Florida Policy Institute. (via Sadaf Knight/FPI)[/caption]

The Cost Of Childcare

According to the United Way ALICE report, the cost of average childcare for infants and toddlers was more than average rent in every single county in Florida, even before the pandemic.

Sadaf Knight said that child care in the state is even more expensive than tuition and fees at Florida’s state universities. "On average, childcare costs families $8,600 a year," she said.

Sadaf Knight said that is not affordable for many families in Central Florida. "When we look at the state median income, and we look at eligibility for something like the school readiness program, which provides vouchers for families with low income, 150% of the state median income comes out to about $40,000/year. So that's what it takes to qualify for state vouchers. And that doesn't even cover all of the cost of child care."

The Impact On The Economy

Having access to childcare is important for workers to be able to work and keep their jobs, said Knight.

"And unfortunately, there are even childcare deserts where there's more than three kids per available slot for childcare centers. So, it does have an economic impact because these childcare centers play such a central part of the decision making around work and the ability to work."

Knights said that has ripple effects throughout the economy, starting from the family and then going out to the community as a whole.

A Possible Solution

During the pandemic, President Joe Biden expanded the Child Tax Credit and the Child Dependent Tax Credit through the American Rescue Plan.

Knight said that had a huge impact. "There were millions of kids who were able to receive the tax credit. And like 700,000 of them were lifted out of poverty because of it. The Child and Dependent tax credit was to help families make ends meet for child care costs. Both of those things could be made permanent they were only for 2021. But those things would really help ease the burden on families when it comes to childcare."

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to WMFE, the station that grew her love for public radio. She graduated with a double-major in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!). While at UCF, she was an intern for WMFE’s public affairs show, Intersection. In her spare time, Talia is an avid foodie and enjoys working out.