The YMCA of Greater Seattle opened its King County branches to provide child care centers dedicated to serving the families of essential workers. Courtesy photo

The YMCA of Greater Seattle opened its King County branches to provide child care centers dedicated to serving the families of essential workers. Courtesy photo

COVID continues to whittle away at child care in Washington

It’s estimated that 25% of Washington child care facilities have closed since the pandemic began.

The impacts of coronavirus on child care in Washington state are outlined in a new report, which shows more facility closures, decreased enrollment and more staff layoffs.

The report was released Aug. 25 by the state’s Child Care Collaborative Task Force. It builds on prior reports, which show nearly 550,000 children under age 12 in Washington state don’t have access to child care. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbates this problem.

Even before the coronavirus, there were some 737,000 children under 12 in the state that needed child care, but only around 187,500 licensed spaces. People of color have less access to quality child care, the report states. And child care is often expensive for families, and more so for single parents.

In King County last year, there were only 64,000 child care spaces for the more than 127,500 kids under age 5, according to a Child Care Aware paper released in 2019.

As of July, 20 percent of child care providers were temporarily closed due to the pandemic. The advocacy organization Child Care Aware estimates up to one-quarter of these providers could have shut down since the pandemic began.

Some 44 percent of early child educators had been laid off or furloughed. And 64 percent of child care businesses surveyed reported their income had decreased by at least half.

At the same time, operating costs have increased by 30 percent because of smaller classes, increased sanitation and staff substitutions.

As school starts entirely online across King County in the coming weeks, there will be an even greater demand for school-age child care options, the report states.

There are concerns that if parents aren’t able to find child care, they may not return to work, which could hamper any economic recovery. And child care workers themselves often aren’t given living wages or health insurance. Child care programs often rely on low levels of state reimbursement rates to fund programs, leaving many short on money even during the good times.

Child Care Aware last year found that Washington state is one of the worst places to find child care, especially for working families.

Statewide, about two-thirds of people live in an area where there are three times as many children as licensed child care spaces. Suburbs and low-income areas have fewer child care options than those living in cities.

A study by Child Care Aware found that the median income for a married couple with kids inside Seattle was $151,000 — about $41,000 more than outside the city. And the annual cost for infant care, on average, for families in Seattle was $23,000 in 2018, compared to $16,000 in other parts of King County. High child care costs, lower wages and bloated housing costs put financial strain on families everywhere, but especially on those headed by single women.

A September 2019 report found that half of Washington parents found it difficult to afford child care, and more than a quarter quit or left school or training because of child care issues. About 10 percent were fired or let go. In total, the report estimated $6.5 billion is lost annually in direct and opportunity costs due to employee child care issues.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Chinese police credentials used in scam case. (courtesy of Bellevue Police Department)
Police announce uptick of scammers posing as foreign officials in Bellevue

One case involved the use of Chinese police credentials to intimidate victims.

File photo
Brief history of rats in the Puget Sound region – and the problem they present

Local exterminator noticed big change in rats over the past 40 years.

Sponsor of the motion to establish guidelines for the removal of encampments, Councilmember Reagan Dunn (courtesy of King County Council)
King County Council discusses policy for removal of homeless encampments

Still unclear what the standards will be, who will enforce it, and how jurisdictions will interact.

Design rendering of new development (Courtesy of Runberg Architecture Group)
Vulcan purchases 1.4-acre property in Bellevue next to future light rail station

The real estate developer says the eight-story development will have about 250 units of housing.

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Supreme Court rules officers can be compelled to testify about killings

In a joint lawsuit against King County, the Washington State Supreme Court… Continue reading

Stock photo
Face coverings again recommended for indoor public settings

Regardless of vaccination status, says Public Health – Seattle & King County

t
Firearm violence in King County on upward trend

King County prosecutors note a backlog in court cases, point to the pandemic as the reason why.

infographic created by Coltura
Study suggests that the top 10 percent of gasoline-using drivers consume one-third of all the gas

Researchers believe converting “gasoline superusers” is an important factor in meeting climate goals

King County Logo
County property purchased in Bellevue for Eastside supportive and affordable housing

The $186 million project is expected to be finished by 2023.

Most Read