House passes Senn bill to expand access to child care

OLYMPIA – Today, the House passed the Fair Start for Kids Act, sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island), to address the child care crisis and make child care more affordable and accessible for families across Washington state. The bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 58-38.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the child care industry was already in crisis. According to a report published by the Association of Washington Business, the child care crisis costs Washington businesses $2 billion a year, while working parents forgo $14 billion a year in lost wages due to the lack of child care access. In the wake of the pandemic, the problem has been exacerbated with huge numbers of parents, especially women, leaving the workforce or reducing hours due to limited access to child care.

“Three years ago, we passed strong equal pay laws for women. But if women can’t even enter or stay in the workforce due to a lack of child care, then we are moving backward in a huge way. Sadly, that is exactly what we are seeing during this ‘she-cession’,” said Senn. “Every conversation about economic recovery includes access to child care. Businesses, working parents and kids all benefit from high-quality child care, yet the state only spends 1% of our budget on early learning. Now is the time to invest in child care for economic recovery, parents’ pocketbooks and a strong future for our kids.”

The Fair Start for Kids Act is a multi-faceted approach to solving the child care crisis, addressing racial inequity for providers and families, and helping the economy. The bill aims to:

  • Sustain and expand the diverse child care workforce by increasing subsidy rates and expanding access to health care for child care providers;
  • Make child care more affordable by reducing families’ copays and increasing eligibility for Working Connections Child Care and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP);
  • Support the expansion of child care by making capital investments to build and expand facilities, as well as increase access to technical assistance for child cares and business; and
  • Strengthen prevention and intervention services by expanding access to mental health consultation, home visits, equity grants, dual language supports and other early intervention services…and more.

“Over half a million children in Washington do not have access to licensed child care. Even when it is available, the cost puts it out of reach for most families,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), sponsor of the bill’s Senate companion, SB 5237. “The current situation is not just inequitable, it hurts families and hinders our state’s economic recovery.”

House Bill 1213 is now headed to the Senate for further consideration.


Fair Start for Kids Act handout

Para más información en español:
Ley de Comienzo Justo para Niños