Non-profit: Child care costs too high for average family budget

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - For working parents, it's a necessary but tough pill to swallow: watching an entire paycheck be consumed by the cost of child care.

In Illinois, the problem is worse than in most places across the country. It’s put many families at the tipping point.

But now, there’s a small silver lining.

“It was really hard. Still is to pay for it,” said Adriana Alvarez.

Alvarez used to pay $46 per month for her 3-year-old son Manny to go to daycare. Now, she pays $75 per week.

She says the governor's cuts cut deep.

“I was the main one suffering. A lot of daycares had to close. Some started charging full price. It was just a mess,” she said.

Governor Bruce Rauner has backed down from his restrictions on state childcare assistance, so that more families that were rejected recently can join. But childcare costs are so high in Illinois and other states that the Economic Policy Institute wanted to study it.

"We have 618 different metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas across the country. It covered the entire United States. One of the things we noticed in 500 of our 618 areas, childcare was more expensive than rent so we wanted to look into that further," said Elise Gould.

They found in Illinois that infant care costs just under $13,000 per year. For full time care of a 4-year-old, it's about $9,500 per year.

EPI says the cost is too high for the average family budget. 

"Let’s say a minimum wage worker who is trying to pay for infant care for their infant. They'd have to spend 75 percent of their full time full year salary. 75 percent. That’s their entire salary, from January til September just to pay for child care, let alone rent, putting food on the table, any other expenses. So it's simply out of reach,” Gould said.

She says something has to change. Either expenses have to go down or wages have to go up.

"One of the reasons it's so unaffordable for many families is their wages simply haven't risen," she said. "When policymakers are looking at solutions to childcare, they should think about solutions that are the scale of the problem."

"I have a 3-year-old. I can only imagine the people that have 2, 3 kids and have to work," Alvarez said.

She works about 30-33 hours per week.

"Right now I’m at $10.50 an hour. I do work at McDonalds. I’m at 10:50," Alvarez added.

She is now resubmitting her paychecks to see how much more government assistance she can receive for Manny's daycare.

But she hopes to one day soon not need it at all.

“Getting a livable wage so that I can afford daycare," Alvarez said. "I really do hope things change for the better."

The governor amended his childcare plan on Monday and Democrats agreed to the deal on Tuesday.

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