Op-ed: Addressing North Carolina’s childcare crisis

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

By Rachel Hunt

February 12, 2024

Last year, my campaign launched the “Task Force on Families,” a dedicated effort to make North Carolina a better place to live, work, and raise a family. A key part of that is tackling the childcare crisis facing North Carolina. This initiative brings together a diverse group, including rural and urban healthcare providers, legislators, parents, and patients, to collaboratively devise common-sense solutions for our state’s families.

Growing up, I was instilled with the belief in the power of speaking the truth and actively working towards ensuring that truth is known to all. Today, that truth is stark: North Carolina is in a childcare crisis, and it’s well past time for our state to act.

In October alone, seven Childcare Facilities in Western North Carolina were forced to make the tough decision to close their doors because our most recent state budget failed to provide the resources needed to keep these facilities open.

And that’s only part of the problem. Soon, funding for a critical program designed to help pay our childcare providers what they’re worth will sunset, making it harder to retain the amazing talent that helps support our children in a key time of their lives.

Giving our children the tools they need to grow into strong students is a part of our DNA as North Carolinians. It’s why my dad, Governor Jim Hunt, and other common-sense leaders like him led the way on this and created a roadmap, called Smart Start, that states across the country are still relying on today.

It’s also why I know we can’t let the severity of this crisis be ignored. It demands a united effort from leaders across party lines to set aside differences and prioritize our children’s well-being and our state’s future. That’s why I’m proud to announce my plan to help fix this crisis.

My plan has three goals: 1) Make childcare more affordable and accessible. 2) Retain talent in childcare centers across our state. And 3) Leverage the Lt. Governor’s Office to make this a priority.

Making Childcare More Affordable and Accessible:

  • First, I’ll use the bully pulpit the Lt. Governor’s office offers to call on leaders of both parties to support the extension of stabilization funds beyond 2024. As it stands today, these grants are set to expire this Summer. If that happens, more than 150,000 North Carolina children won’t have access to quality care, and as a result, it will cause a strain on their parents’ ability to participate in the workforce.
  • Secondly, I will advocate for permanently expanding the “Tri-Care” initiative included in this year’s state budget. This initiative aims to alleviate the financial strain of childcare expenses while actively motivating businesses to support our state’s childcare needs.
  • Finally, I am committed to advocating for the sustained funding of Smart Start Partnerships statewide. It is imperative to provide childcare providers with the necessary resources for the ongoing education of our children, enabling them to remain steadfast as the longstanding pillars of support that communities have relied on for decades.

Retaining Talent

  • I am dedicated to supporting the NC Wage$ Program, recognizing its crucial role in supporting childcare facilities and their staff throughout the pandemic. The program’s impact on sustaining childcare services and supporting dedicated staff underscores its importance in these challenging times.
  • I’ll support free childcare for employees working in childcare facilities. This support aims to alleviate financial burdens on those in the childcare sector. By making childcare more accessible, we can ensure a supportive environment for both childcare professionals and the families they serve.

Leveraging the LG’s Office:

  • In 1993, leaders of both parties came together to give our community colleges the tools they needed to help working parents afford childcare while earning an education. This was a strong start and a strong investment in working families in all corners of North Carolina. Today, our community colleges continue to support working parents in affording child care, but serious gaps need to be filled. Whether it’s the lack of childcare options in some corners of North Carolina or these grants not meeting the demand of the students who need them, our state can do better. That’s why, as Lt. Governor, I’ll use my seat on the State Board of Community Colleges to help establish a “Childcare Census” to explore those gaps and to find ways our community college system can continue to support hard working families to afford childcare.

It’s more than clear that solving this crisis for the people of North Carolina is not a partisan issue; it is a matter of good old fashioned common sense.

North Carolina’s families are relying on us to navigate this crisis and emerge with practical, effective solutions. It’s time for leaders from both parties to come together, prioritize the needs of our children, and ensure a brighter future for the Tar Heel State.

Author

  • Rachel Hunt

    Rachel Hunt is a Senator, lawyer, and mother. She dedicated her professional career to defending the rights of women and children. Hunt is running for Lieutenant Governor to fight for basic freedoms, create safer communities, and improve our education system.

CATEGORIES: OPINION | POLITICS

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