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Child-care crisis mounts in Appalachian Ohio Featured Image
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Child-care crisis mounts in Appalachian Ohio

In Appalachian Ohio, quality child care is increasingly scarce or prohibitively expensive for working families.

Even before COVID-19, 60% of rural Ohioans lived in a child care desert, or an area with three times as many children as licensed child care providers.

Erin Finley, a parent and member of the Groundwork Ohio Family Action Network in Noble County, said she has struggled to find care for her son over the past month, despite being on several waitlists. Her county operates one day care facility and one licensed in-home provider.

Since her income is too high for Head Start, she expects to pay an extra $300 a month for the day care facility.

"I'm a single parent and household, and we only have one income," Finley explained. "I now pay more for child care than I pay to rent my home, that I paid to have my car."

As many as 100,000 Americans have been forced to stay home from work each month because of child care issues, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Earlier this year, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, introduced the Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act. The legislation would create and expand federal loan and grant programs to boost the availability, quality and affordability of child care in rural regions.

Finley added without options, working parents are forced to rely on babysitters or unlicensed in-home providers.

"I think it even makes it more difficult to find care when you've been in a few situations and had to remove your child due to safety concerns," Finley noted.

Some companies are beginning to take steps to address the nationwide child care crisis. Shipping company UPS recently announced it is expanding on-site emergency child care centers for its workers, with the goal of stemming high turnover.

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