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NE Lawmakers Consider Boosting Child-Care Assistance

About 1,500 Nebraska parents, mostly unmarried mothers, would start working if they knew they'dbe able to obtain a child-care subsidy. (Aubrey Robinson/USAF)
About 1,500 Nebraska parents, mostly unmarried mothers, would start working if they knew they'd
be able to obtain a child-care subsidy. (Aubrey Robinson/USAF)
February 21, 2020

LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska lawmakers are considering two bills that proponents say would help low-income families, and businesses across the state struggling to find workers, by expanding access to affordable child care.

Julia Tse, policy coordinator with Voices for Children in Nebraska, says parents need to know their children are in a safe environment while they're at work. And with the average cost of child care for an infant at $12,000 a year, she says many working families can't get by without help.

"If we allowed more families to be eligible for child-care assistance, there would be over 1,500 Nebraska mothers that would enter the workforce, and we would see 3,300 fewer Nebraska children living in poverty," says Tse.

Legislative Bill 1049, set to be heard Friday by the Health and Human Services Committee, would expand eligibility for child-care assistance. LB 329, which has cleared committee, would allow parents to keep getting assistance as their wages rise, up to 200% of the federal poverty level.

Critics say the projected costs, at over $10 million annually, are too high. Proponents note most if not all of the costs could be covered with federal dollars.

Tse points to a national study showing that when parents can't afford child care, nearly $57 billion a year is lost in productivity, earnings and tax revenues. She believes the up-front investment in child care would save taxpayers money in the long run, by helping workers build careers and become financially independent.

"If that parent is out of the workforce for five years, what does that mean when they return? If that parent goes to part-time hours, what does that mean for their retirement, later on down the road? These are costs that are borne by the state," says Tse.

Last year, 440 Nebraska families lost child-care assistance because their income rose above 185% of the federal poverty level, which is about $19 an hour for a single parent with two kids. You can find out if your family qualifies for child-care assistance online at 'AccessNebraska.NE.Gov.'

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE