PA House bill encourages employers to help employees with child care

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill to encourage employers to help their employees pay for child care.

Child care in Pennsylvania is much too expensive, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with too few child care providers for the many working families who need it.

"It's challenging, and it's challenging on both sides of the equation, both for families and for child care providers," Diane Barber of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association.

Local child care can cost over $11,000 a year, taking up to 14 percent of a parent's income instead of the seven percent recommended by the government, and the costs are going up as child care centers face shortages in workers, says Barber.

"Wages that are somewhere between $12 and $15 an hour to start, that's troubling. If you have the qualifications to work in a child care center, Target's paying $20," Barber said.

With an overwhelming bipartisan vote, the Pennsylvania House passed a bill to give employers a tax credit to assist their employees with child care. The first $500 of help to an employee would be eligible for the credit.

"Anything that can help families afford child care is a good thing," Barber said.

While designed to incentivize companies to help their workers, local lawmakers who voted against the bill say the help should go directly to the families.

"I didn't think that we should be giving extra money through specific tax breaks to employers because I want that money to go directly in the pockets of those who are actually paying the costs," Republican state Rep. Aaron Bernstine said.

Opponents also say the bill doesn't address the shortage of affordable child care centers, and is too small an incentive to encourage companies to start a child care wage deferral program.

"We really should be focused on parents in this situation and students, and not necessarily giving additional tax breaks to employers," Bernstine said. 

Still, three-quarters of House lawmakers voted for the measure, which now goes to the Pennsylvania Senate, where supporters are optimistic it will pass.

From KDKA Radio