May 27, 2020

Investments in Washington’s Child Care System Needed to Prevent Worsening Child Care Crisis

TACOMA, WA – May 27, 2020 – Thousands of Washington’s licensed child care providers report they are at risk of closing permanently due to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of these high-quality programs would significantly worsen our state’s decades-long child care crisis where demand has exceeded supply, child care waiting lists have been months and even years long and child care professionals have been woefully underpaid.

While recent child care grants resulting from federal COVID-19 stimulus funding may help some programs stay financially afloat during these difficult times, it is becoming increasingly clear that not all child care programs will survive. According to our recent survey of licensed child care providers, 41 percent who responded believe they are at risk of permanent closure, due mainly to the financial impacts of the crisis. Our survey shows that only two percent of licensed providers who responded to our survey were awarded federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and only eight percent were able to successfully apply for and win federal Paycheck Protection Program loans.

“Washington’s child care providers have financially been hanging on by a proverbial thread for decades. The loss of much of their income from so many children being kept at home, combined with the increased costs of running a child care small business during the pandemic, have forced hundreds to temporarily close their doors. Those that have remained open are struggling to operate on reduced incomes and without personal protective equipment and health insurance,” said Deeann Burtch Puffert, chief executive officer for Child Care Aware of Washington. “Our state must recognize the crucial role child care plays in reopening and sustaining our economy because most parents of young children work. Investments in the child care industry are investments in all other industries because investing in child care allows parents to work and employers to operate.”

Washington’s child care crisis cost employers in our state $2.08 billion in direct costs in 2017, and $6.5 billion in direct and opportunity costs, according to a 2019 report, The Mounting Costs of Child Care, from the Washington State Department of Commerce and other member organizations of the state’s Child Care Collaborative Task Force. The report also found that 36 percent of Washington parents departed from their jobs or schooling due to a lack of access to quality child care.

Child Care Aware of WA’s survey of licensed child care providers reveals that only 49 responding providers applied for and were awarded federal Economic Injury Disaster loans, and only 202 responding providers applied for and were awarded federal Paycheck Protection Program loans. Over 2,500 of Washington’s approximately 5,400 licensed providers responded to our survey. Many programs are applying for new federal CARES Act-funded grants at this time. Our early learning coaches across the state are helping providers apply.

Child Care Aware of Washington is a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to connecting families to local, high-quality, licensed child care and early learning programs, and to supporting providers who deliver high-quality care. As a statewide network of six regional agencies, we work side-by-side with child care providers, offering professional development services and higher education scholarships to help providers integrate research-based,

best practices into their programs. We track child care supply, demand and cost data statewide and in every county. We are committed to ensuring that each and every child in Washington, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, culture, primary language or economic status, has access to the quality care and early learning they need to succeed in school and life. For more information, please visit our website at and follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter @childcarewa.