Child care costs are rising, leaving parents with fewer options and costing Texas billions

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has created more issues with the child care system, and it's costing Texans billions of dollars.

CHILD CARE COST IS FORCING SOME TEXANS OUT OF THE WORKFORCE

Aliya Faiola, a mother of two, is one of the thousands of parents in the Houston area juggling work and child care costs.

"I'm that person that loves to work, and I enjoyed being at work, and my coworkers," Faiola explained.

It's a passion Faiola no longer experiences after she quit her job last summer after the birth of her son.

It's a decision Faiola said she didn't want to make, but with the price of child care, she said there was no other choice.

"Weekly, it would be $360 for a child," Faiola explained. "For two kids, it's $720 for a week! Working and trying to find child care for two kids, especially here right now, it was pretty hard." Faiola said.

SEE RELATED STORY: Houston mother faces eviction while waiting for child care assistance

PARENTS ARE CHANGING CHILD CARE, FACING RISING COSTS, AND LEAVING CHILD CARE FACILITIES ALL TOGETHER DURING THE PANDEMIC

A new U.S. Chamber of Commerce study shows how many parents in Texas are making the same tough decision as Faiola and leaving the workforce. It discovered more than half of participants changed child care arrangements during the pandemic.

When citing why they left their jobs, 30% of high-income parents blamed child care. For lower income families, that number nearly doubled.

The average price of child care is more than $600 a month. But with the growing number of parents opting out of child care, they aren't working, they aren't making money to shop, buy a home, or other items.

This results in the state losing $1.8 billion in tax revenue, and that has an impact on all of us.

"Which means there's a potential decrease in other public services, whether it's roads, transportation, etcetera," said Peter Beard, the regional workforce development vice president for Greater Houston Partnership.

SEE RELATED: Despite Houston's massive job growth in November, child care is still holding parents back

MORE CHILD CARE CENTERS ARE CLOSING, LEAVING PARENTS WITH WAITLISTS OR NO NEARBY OPTIONS AT ALL

Cost isn't the only issue. Children at Risk discovered during the summer of 2020, the number of child care deserts increased across the state by 50%.

This means there are still more communities where the demand is higher than the amount of providers.

"We're seeing several waitlists go up because of the limited amount of seats that are available and a lot of that has to do with the workforce," said Mandi Kimball, the vice president of Children at Risk.

One of those places is at Kids 'R' Kids in Rosenberg, that was hit hard by the pandemic.

"Our enrollment was around 120 to 130 at that time, and in March, it went to 12," said the owner of Kids 'R' Kids Rosenberg, Arun Singh.

CHILD CARE CENTERS STRUGGLING TO FIND WORKERS DURING THE PANDEMIC

Parents who can afford daycare have sent their kids back, but another key component isn't. Businesses struggle to find workers.

"They want to go to work," Singh explained. "They want to bring the kids back to us and we cannot take them."

Singh said in order to get new employees he's had to raise salaries, but it's not easy.

Between pay increases and supply prices, including milk and paper, going up, it may impact tuition.

"Bottom line, we do not want to raise the prices," Singh said.

TEXAS RECEIVED BILLIONS IN COVID-19 RELIEF BILLS TO COMBAT CHILD CARE CONCERNS

Texas received nearly $6 billion from federal COVID bills to address this perfect storm. The state started new scholarships, including one that provides hospitality workers with free child care for a year.

But the answer isn't only with tax dollars. Experts said more businesses need to work with governments to create public-private partnerships.

"Employers are beginning to confront that there's a return on investment to this, which is the cost of losing a qualified skilled worker, cost money to replace them and get them to 100% productivity," Beard explained.

The state will also launch its first-ever child care apprenticeship program in the Dallas area.

Participants can earn while they learn and get jobs in the child care industry. Businesses are offering a child care benefit that's very much enticing to Faiola.

"Most of the time they don't hire me because when you have kids, especially under two, and no daycare," Faiola said.

It's a problem experts said needs to be addressed because its holding parents back and the state is losing billions.

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