As your constituent, I’m writing to urge you to ensure the final state budget prioritizes investments that help children and families thrive.
North Carolina has the opportunity to address long-standing needs and strengthen the child care programs parents need and businesses rely upon to support the workforce.
Parents need quality, affordable child care to be able to return to work. But nearly 20,000 parents are on the waitlist for child care subsidies to afford care. Meanwhile our state’s child care programs are struggling to keep their doors open. North Carolina is facing a child care workforce crisis. Low wages that don’t allow early education teachers to support their families have led many to leave child care to work in retail, fast food, or other industries. Child care programs are operating under thin profit margins that make it almost impossible to raise wages on their own. Subsidy market rates that are uneven and well below the true cost of care make this situation worse while also leading centers to be unable to serve additional children on subsidy.
We can do better. In the final budget, I urge you to increase the total amount of funding for child care subsidy assistance, provide recurring funding for Smart Start’s work to strengthen our child care system, expand the Child Care WAGE$ program statewide, as proposed in the House budget, and support increased child care subsidy rates as described in H574.
The budget also includes opportunities to give moms and babies a stronger, healthier start. Our state’s children get only one start in life and the investments we make today can make a difference in their long-term outcomes. I hope you’ll ensure that the Senate provision to extend Medicaid coverage for moms who’ve just given birth from 60 days to one year and the House provision to provide paid parental leave to K-12 school employees are both included in the final budget.
Our state budget should reflect our priorities. As you negotiate the final budget, I hope you’ll keep North Carolina’s children and families in the front of your mind.