Help is on the way for child care costs
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President Trump and congressional Republicans have released the framework for a once-in-a-generation overhaul of the tax code. Setting aside the merits of the complete package, there’s one thing the both of us agree would improve the proposal for middle-class and low-income Americans trying to get ahead — a solution to the growing costs of child care in America.

Ensuring young children have access to quality, affordable care is one of the most critical priorities facing many parents today. Child care and nursery school costs have nearly tripled over the last 25 years, yet the way the tax code treats those costs has remained the same.

High-quality child care helps guarantee that children — especially those living in poverty — can benefit from a strong start in life. From preparing kids for kindergarten to higher graduation rates, quality child care can transform lives. And it can help strengthen the economic security of families by enabling parents to work full time.

Yet child care costs have risen so much that it is now less expensive to pay for in-state college tuition than child care, putting quality care out of reach of many low- and even middle-income families.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of care for one infant in Kansas is about $933 per month. That’s more than 50 percent higher than the average cost of in-state tuition at a four-year public college in Kansas.

The changing demands of our nation’s economy, the stress of our demanding labor market and the challenges created by an increasing number of children being raised in single-parent families have all left parents struggling with the competing demands of work and parenting. For many Kansans living near or below the poverty line, this represents an insurmountable financial obstacle.

More often than not, if costs force one parent to stay home, it’s the woman who leaves work. Nearly one-third of mothers are stay-at-home parents in 2017, which is an increase from about 23 percent in 1999.

Staying home to raise children is a great option, but not every family has that luxury. Many families find themselves needing both parents to work to make ends meet. Single mothers must work to support their children, but because of rising child care costs many often have to go on government support as a supplement.

As we approach tax reform, we must provide relief to those who need it most — these single mothers and working families.

That’s why we’re working together, along with Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and many other advocacy groups, to get the Promoting Affordable Child care for Everyone (PACE) Act signed into law.

This bipartisan legislation — there is a similar bill in the Senate — modernizes the tax code by making sure more families can benefit from the existing child care tax credit and flexible spending accounts. By making the child and dependent care tax credit refundable, more American families — particularly low-income families — will be able to afford child care. As a result, more Americans can remain in the workforce, helping those families remain financially secure while also strengthen our nation’s economy.

The PACE Act will help American families better afford child care by increasing the maximum annual refund for the child and dependent care tax credit for low-income and middle-income families. Importantly, the legislation also takes steps to index the tax credit to inflation, so the credit keeps pace with the rising costs of care.

It’s no secret that our nation is bitterly divided and Americans’ faith in the federal government to fix problems that matter the most to them is waning. We are hungry for bipartisan solutions for the betterment of our country, offered by leaders putting the people before the cynical politics of our time.

We believe the PACE Act is one of them.

Yoder represents the 3rd District of Kansas. Shriver serves as President of Save the Children Action Network.