NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, May 13th, 2023

Expansion of access to Working Connections Child Care will help Washington families

Wash­ing­ton is fac­ing two big chal­lenges when it comes to childcare.

The first is access to safe and reli­able care, and the sec­ond is main­tain­ing a strong, sta­ble work­force. Sen­ate Bill 5225 will help solve both.

Washington State Senator Claire Wilson

Wash­ing­ton State Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son, the spon­sor of SB 5225 (Pho­to: Once And Future Lau­ra, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

In 2021, the Leg­is­la­ture passed the his­toric Fair Start for Kids Act, which expand­ed access to the Work­ing Con­nec­tions Child Care (WCCC) pro­gram, which helps reduce the cost of child­care for many fam­i­lies and in turn, sup­ports our youngest learners.

Imple­men­ta­tion of the act has been suc­cess­ful and is already help­ing thou­sands of fam­i­lies pay for and access afford­able child­care — but it was evi­dent in many con­ver­sa­tions I have had that more need­ed to be done.

That is why this year, I brought for­ward SB 5225 to expand WCCC eli­gi­bil­i­ty to even more families.

Right now, child­care providers are strug­gling to hire and retain employ­ees. We have more licensed slots in the sys­tem than before the pan­dem­ic, but few­er kids in care. Often class­rooms sit emp­ty because work­ers can­not find care for their own children.

With the pas­sage of this leg­is­la­tion, those child­care employ­ees will soon have access to Work­ing Con­nec­tions Child Care. This win-win solu­tion ensures their chil­dren have a safe place to go dur­ing the day and they them­selves can get back to work to care for even more of our young learners.

My col­leagues and I also rec­og­nized that while many fam­i­lies involved with the court sys­tem have access to child­care to help them recov­er, our ther­a­peu­tic court sys­tem, which pro­vides treat­ment for men­tal health and sub­stance use dis­or­der as part of its mis­sion of reha­bil­i­ta­tion, lacks this tool.

Access to child­care will help sup­port par­ents’ suc­cess in these courts, and pro­vide sta­ble, con­sis­tent care for their children.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray Visits LCC's Childcare Center

Democ­rats elect­ed to the fed­er­al and state lev­els in Wash­ing­ton have a long his­to­ry of work­ing to strength­en child­care. Pic­tured here is U.S. Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, who vis­it­ed Low­er Colum­bia Col­lege’s Ear­ly Learn­ing Cen­ter in April 2018 as part of her effort to bol­ster invest­ments in our nation’s child care net­work. (Pho­to: Low­er Colum­bia Col­lege, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Here in Wash­ing­ton, many fam­i­lies who are already eli­gi­ble for the pro­gram in every way sim­ply do not pos­sess the nec­es­sary doc­u­men­ta­tion required by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. SB 5225 pro­vides those par­ents with access to the WCCC benefits.

Not only will this help these par­ents, but it will also, in turn, help address our cur­rent work­force shortages.

To fur­ther boost our child­care work­force, we also took action this ses­sion with SB 5316 to decrease sys­temic delays and costs that were keep­ing appli­cants from get­ting down to work.

State law requires back­ground checks when the Depart­ment of Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies is approv­ing appli­cants to our child­care workforce.

This is impor­tant for the safe­ty of kids in our care, but it intro­duces delays between when some­one accepts a job and when they can begin work.

When back­ground fees were sus­pend­ed dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, we learned that sim­ply remov­ing the require­ment for pay­ment saved sev­er­al days in the process.

When pay­ment does not have to be hand­ed from per­son to per­son, it saves time, and every day saved is a day soon­er that per­son can get to work.

Not only does waiv­ing these fees speed up the process of get­ting approved appli­cants into posi­tions, but it also removes a cost that too often keeps qual­i­fied work­ers from apply­ing in the first place.

Help­ing child­care providers is a cru­cial part of solv­ing the child­care cri­sis. They are the back­bone of the indus­try and their abil­i­ty to offer safe, sta­ble care is essen­tial for Wash­ing­ton families.

This leg­isla­tive ses­sion, we focused on remov­ing some of the road­blocks that were stand­ing in the way. I am proud to have cham­pi­oned these two bills to increase sup­port and resources for our providers, which will help even more fam­i­lies across Wash­ing­ton lead bet­ter, less stress­ful lives.

About the author

Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son (D‑Auburn) rep­re­sents the 30th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, chairs the Sen­ate Human Ser­vices Com­mit­tee and is vice chair of the Sen­ate Ear­ly Learn­ing and K‑12 Com­mit­tee. She cham­pi­oned the land­mark Fair Start for Kids Act, which invest­ed $1.1 bil­lion to make child­care and ear­ly learn­ing more afford­able for Wash­ing­ton families.

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