It remains to be seen what survives in the brutal negotiations in Congress for Biden’s broad family services agenda, but the pandemic is proving to be a make-or-break catalyst for the future of the child care industry.
At Forever Young Daycare in the Seattle suburb of Mountlake Terrace, Amy McCoy is burning out fast.
She’s spent half of this year trying to hire a new assistant for her in-home child care, but until then, the former public school teacher works 50 hours a week caring for children herself, and more doing the cooking, cleaning and administrative work needed to run her business.
“At what point is my day care more important than my own family?” McCoy asked.
One of McCoy’s assistants, who worked there for five years, quit the $19-an-hour job in April for a $35-an-hour job nannying. McCoy has posted the opening for an entry-level assistant on Indeed and Facebook, offering $16 per hour — nearly 20% more than the state minimum wage. She’s gotten few responses and all turned her down over pay, making hiring impossible without a tuition increase.
“Nobody wants to work for what I can afford to pay right now,” McCoy said. “I absolutely believe these are $20-an-hour employees, but I hate that, most likely, I will have to raise tuition.”
The U.S. Treasury Department noted in a September report that child care workers earn on average $24,230. More than 15% of the industry’s workers live below the poverty line in 41 states and half need public assistance. The sector has high levels of turnover, with 26% to 40% leaving their job each year. Nor is their much room to give among child care centers that tend to operate on profits of 1% or less.