News Releases

Spokesman-Review: Patty Murray’s decades-long fight to transform U.S. child care system may finally become reality – Read More HERE 

Bellingham Herald: Whatcom is a child care desert. How many more spots must be added to help fix that? – Read More HERE

Senator Murray: “I believe this is our moment to finally build child care and early learning systems that ensure working families can find and afford child care, workers get the pay they deserve, and children can get a quality early education”

***Photos available for widespread distribution can be found HERE*** 

(Bellingham, WA) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, held a roundtable with providers and parents at the Barkley Early Learning Center in Bellingham to hear about the child care crisis in Whatcom County and Washington state. Murray highlighted her efforts to make child care affordable for working families and to finally establish universal pre-k, both top priorities for President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats as a part of the Build Back Better agenda.

“After years of banging on doors in the other Washington, trying to get my colleagues to talk about child care, COVID-19 has thrust this once silent epidemics to the center-stage—and now, my colleagues are coming up to me saying, ‘Patty, child care is a big problem.’ I believe this is our moment to finally build child care and early learning systems that ensure working families can find and afford child care, workers get the pay they deserve, and children can get a quality early education,” said Senator Murray. “My bill means no working family would pay more than seven percent of their income on child care. We would establish universal pre-k for 3 and 4 year olds, improve the quality and supply of child care for all children, and increase pay for child care workers so they make a living wage. This isn’t just good for working families and for child care workers—it’s a smart investment in our children, our future, and our economy.”

Earlier this year, Senator Murray – a former preschool teacher who has fought for decades to push child care as a top priority in Congress — reintroduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, a comprehensive child care and early learning bill to make child care affordable for working families, expand access to preschool programs for 3- and 4-year olds, improve the quality of care for all children, and increase compensation and provide training for child care workers. The child care provisions of the Senate’s budget reconciliation package are modeled after Murray’s legislation and Murray, as chair of the Senate Education Committee, will lead Senate Democrats in crafting final details of the Build Back Better agenda’s child care components.

“Our biggest challenge is staffing. Everyone here knows we should be paying our staff more, much more, so that they can earn enough so that they feel like it’s a career, and they can work on professional development, which will improve program quality. How do you pay staff more though when 80% of your expenses are already staff and the rates are already unaffordable? So we need support so it’s possible to have a workforce that feels professional, cared for and valued,” said Whatcom County YMCA Executive Director Bill Ziels.

“I deal with the parents on the frontline every day. And there’s nothing that I hate more than getting a phone call from a parent who just moved to the area or got a job change or their child care center closed, and I have to tell this sobbing parent on the phone that our waitlist is 1 to 2 years long. Between our two sites we have over 200 children on our waitlist, so getting children in our facility is not easy and you get other parents moving to the area for jobs or other centers close down and there’s nothing we can do. So their chances of getting in are actually pretty slim and that’s devastating for a lot of families,” said Director of the Barkley Early Learning Center Lori Stacy.

“Our daughter is three and a half now, and when she was around a year and a half we were on 10+ different waitlists and that’s when I met Lori at the Barkley YMCA. Lori and I have exchanged almost 400 emails since July of 2019 when my daughter was able to start part-time at the YMCA. It wasn’t until September of 2020 that she was finally able to be in full time child care… We were fortunate enough to be successful, but this is such a critical time especially with COVID and kids being behind in social development at these younger ages, addressing this now is paramount. I hope you can move quickly Senator because the need is so immediate,” said Whatcom County parent Kourtnei McQuaig.

“Child care that opens before we go to work and closes after we’re finished with work allows both my husband and I to contribute to our community, and in our family we talk about working as our way of contributing to our community, so it’s really important to both of us that we’re able to do that. I think every parent should have that opportunity, and I know when they don’t have child care single parents are in just an impossible situation to contend with. Even in dual parent households, women are left to manage the impact of not having child care—which is a gender inequity we need to move past in this country and I think child care is one of the ways we do that,” said Whatcom County parent Katie Stanford.

Senator Murray was also instrumental in securing $40 billion in child care relief, including $635 million for Washington state, as part of the American Rescue Plan. The money has helped support child care providers and prevent further closures, ensure child care workers—the majority of whom are women—don’t continue to lose their jobs, and ensure working families have access to quality, affordable child care. $15 billion of these funds were provided for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to subsidize child care for 875,000 children over the next year. $24 billion was provided for child care stabilization funds to save and sustain nearly 449,000 child care programs, impacting 7.3 million children. The bill also includes $1 billion for Head Start to ensure programs can continue to provide vital services to children and families.

Senator Murray led the fight for child care relief during this pandemic, and is a leader in the Senate on child care reform. Senator Murray has successfully increased investment in early childhood education and child care by increasing funding for both Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant and she introduced her Child Care for Working Families Act in 2017.