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Big Decisions Ahead on NH Child Care Funding

Advocates for affordable child care are holding forums - like this one in Manchester - with state legislators across New Hampshire. (Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy)
Advocates for affordable child care are holding forums - like this one in Manchester - with state legislators across New Hampshire. (Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy)
November 28, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. — The cost of child care is taking an ever-growing slice out of the family budgets of Granite State residents with young kids, and local advocates say the next state budget needs to do more to help them make ends meet.

Child care currently takes up about a third of a New Hampshire family's budget, said Amanda Sears, director of the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy. She said for a family with an infant and a four-year-old, child care costs are now about $20,000 a year, while the average family's annual income is about $60,000.

"In New Hampshire, child care has eclipsed rent as the largest expense in the budget for families with young kids; so it's larger than health care, larger than student-loan repayments,” Sears said. “Yet we haven't gotten serious about figuring out how to make sure that we have child care policies to help families struggling with those costs."

The issue will come up when Governor-elect Chris Sununu delivers his first budget as governor in February. Sununu discussed the high cost of child care during his election campaign, and he talked about the need to help more Granite State families shoulder the increasing costs.

Sununu will be taking office at a time when the federal government is introducing new requirements for Child Care Development Block Grants. Sears said the new rules will mean states either have to come up with more funding or provide child care to a lot fewer families in the state.

"They're updated regulations and they are important. They help to make sure that child care is safe and it's high quality, but they do come with costs,” Sears said. "We're looking at needing to figure out how we can ensure that enough families get child care and have access to that."

She said they have been meeting with lawmakers, letting them know this isn't just a family issue, but also one that impacts the growth of New Hampshire's economy.

"There's a high return on investment in education for kids aged zero to five,” Sears said. "Studies show there's about a $7 to $10 return for every dollar invested."

New Hampshire is facing a workforce shortage, she said, and new moms who have access to child care are more likely to take a job that will contribute to the state's economy.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH