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Crisis of Child Care Affordability Affects OR Voters


Monday, May 16, 2022   

Oregonians are casting their ballots for Tuesday's primary election. One issue affecting many voters is access to child care.

Courtney Helstein, senior political director with the organization Family Forward Oregon, said child-care affordability was a problem before COVID-19 and the pandemic has only exacerbated it.

She said women, particularly women of color, have felt the disproportionate impacts of care costs and accessibility. Helstein said the costs mean some have to make tough decisions.

"The result of all these high costs is that too many families are actually forced to choose between child care, between meals, between other basic necessities," said Helstein. "And they're also having to weigh the financial costs of, 'Is it actually more cost effective for me and my family for me to not work?'"

Helstein said demand has never been higher for child care, but workers in the field are among the lowest paid in the country.

She said there have been some successes in the Oregon Legislature, including investments in early childhood learning and community-led pilot projects.

Matt Newell-Ching, senior policy manager with the nonpartisan nonprofit Oregon Food Bank, said access to child care is a hunger issue.

The food bank surveyed candidates for governor about food insecurity, and their responses are posted on its website.

Newell-Ching said there's a question about child care because Oregon Food Bank believes it will continue to be an issue for Oregon families.

"Whoever the next governor is," said Newell-Ching, "we believe it's critical that we as a state come together to ensure kids have a safe place to be while parents are working because it impacts every communities' ability to rebuild and thrive."

Helstein said we need to look at child care differently.

"We're seeing the beginning of this culture shift," said Helstein, "across the country, but definitely in the state of Oregon, of really starting to reframe access to child care from kind of like a personal problem to a societal problem, to a community benefit."

The deadline to vote in Oregon's primary is Tuesday. Drop sites for ballots will be open until 8 p.m.

Reporting by Oregon News Service funded in part by Oregon Food Bank.

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