Child care and early learning advocates and stakeholders saw modest gains this past legislative session that ended April 28. Lawmakers passed and funded several small steps forward that provide some stability for the child care market, but there is more to do to solve the child care crisis.
The new budget provides funding for:
- Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) rates to be increased to the 55th percentile for Early Achievers Level 3 participants
- Investment of $6 million into additional supports and professional development for Early Achievers programs
- 1,100 new ECEAP (state-funded preschool) slots
- An expansion of Family, Friend and Neighbor play and learn groups
- The Early Achievers enhancements (HB 1391) and WA CAN Act (HB 1344) bills
- The addition of 1,200 home visiting slots to increase access to high-quality early learning for families
- $28.5 million to match private and other public funding to buy, build or modernize facilities to add capacity for early learning programs, including ECEAP and programs participating in Early Achievers
While Child Care Aware of Washington applauds these gains and thanks the legislature for this progress, we did not see significant progress in raising the wages of child care professionals nor in the homeless grace period extension, which would have provided up to 12 months of free licensed child care for young children experiencing homelessness. We will focus on these important goals this interim as we prepare for the next legislative session.
Thank you to all of our partners and to all of the providers and parents who advocated for expanded access to high-quality child care and early learning programs. Your voices made a positive difference for children and families this session.