New child care tax credits and funding mean help for Lehigh Valley families
April 7, 2021 at 4:39 PM
See article here.
A year ago, Sandy Bailey was looking forward to getting some financial relief.
The Allentown mother of two young children was ready to see her oldest start first grade in the 2020-2021 school year. It would mean lower child care bills, some welcome money for the single mom.
The COVID-19 pandemic not only took that relief away, it heaped more financial strain on Bailey and her family. School for Bailey’s oldest child was all virtual, and Bailey needed to pay for full-day care for her two kids so she could continue working full time through the pandemic.
“I have been on the front lines since day one over a year ago. It has been extremely difficult,” Bailey said Tuesday, adding she does not qualify for food stamps or subsidized child care. “Yes, children are costly and they are expensive, but when the pandemic hit, it became even more (expensive) ... it’s a lot, and with the pandemic it has been hard, it has been very hard and stressful with all the challenges we have had to face throughout. And I know I’m not the only one.”
Supporters of the American Rescue Plan hope to provide relief to families like Bailey’s across the country.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., held a virtual news conference Tuesday to highlight ways the new law aims to cut child poverty in half.
The $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill signed into law last month is known for the stimulus checks that have started appearing in mailboxes and bank accounts.
“I don’t think that any of us fully comprehend the scope and the full benefit of these provisions that will help children grow and help them thrive through the pandemic and, if we can continue these policies, they will thrive well beyond the pandemic, for the rest o their lives,” Casey said. “There’s a lot of work to do yet to continue these policies.”
The bill did not receive a single Republican vote, including Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey. Toomey called it a “partisan, wasteful” spending bill.
President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats “refused to work with Republicans and instead rammed through a wasteful $1.9 trillion bill on a strictly partisan vote,” Toomey said in a prepared statement. “This bill is not about responding to COVID. It is about exploiting the final stretch of a public health crisis in order to enact a longstanding liberal wish-list for years into the future. Only a fraction of the funds in this bill can even be spent this year.”
The highlights of the benefits include increasing the child tax credit, from up to $2,000 per child under age 17 to $3,600 for kids under age 6 and $3,000 for older kids.
Working parents can receive up to $4,000 for child care expenses for one child and up to $8,000 for two or more kids or dependents in 2021. The care credits will help middle-class families, as well as those with lower income, Casey noted.
“This credit alone will help a quarter of a million families in Pennsylvania, about 6.7 million families nationwide,” the senator said.
The child care tax credits are welcome for Bailey, who said her previous stimulus checks went straight to paying for childcare.
“And I even paid a couple weeks in advance, that way i could insure I would be good and covered,” she said.
Residents will see the child tax credit payments this summer, while the child care credits will be available when people file their 2021 taxes next year, Casey’s staff said.
The plan also includes $39 billion for childcare, with $15 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program and $24 billion for a child care stabilization fund. Casey said Pennsylvania should see about $1.2 billion of that money.
“The importance of high quality child care is irrefutable,” said Michele McElroy, who has owned and operated the Cuddle Zone in Allentown for more than 25 years. “It’s been a political hot topic, a society issue, a family conversation for as long as I’ve been in business,” while the money invested in high quality early care and education ends up saving money in the end.
McElroy is the board chair-elect of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association, a nonprofit that represents 2,400 centers, group and family child care programs.
“The trilemma of quality, affordability and accessibility remain a focus point” in child care, McElroy said.
The plan’s tax credits will help make child care more affordable for families, and Pennsylvania’s Keystone Stars program helps maintain quality, but “what is left to address is accessibility,” McElroy said. Staffing is also an issue for providers.
Bailey’s children, who are 5 and 6 years old, attend Lehigh Valley Children’s Centers.
Charles Dinofrio is president and CEO of Lehigh Valley Children’s Centers, which serves almost 1,400 children at 30 locations in Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties. Providers like LVCC work to provide high-quality care and early education for children in the region.
“Our goal to get through the pandemic and to the future is to look to partner with community resources and community schools,” he said. “If we want our children to grow up in the future to be successful, we have to start at the beginning of their ages and carry them through the school system and the community.”
Casey wasn’t the only lawmaker on Tuesday touting the act’s benefits for Lehigh Valley childcare recipients and providers.
U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-Lehigh Valley, was scheduled to visit the Allentown YMCA in the morning to see recent renovations and promote how the act is helping families who use its services.
“Our economic recovery is only possible if we support stable, affordable childcare for working families. The relief funding in the American Rescue Plan will go a long way to helping organizations like the Greater Valley YMCA to continue serving families in our community and jumpstart our economy,” Wild said in a news release. “While there’s still more to be done to guarantee that working families can access quality and affordable childcare, this relief is a significant step forward.”