The National Nurses United Association is urging the federal government to expand access to child care and to provide incentives for low-income families to get care.
The group sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell on Tuesday, urging her to help millions of children, seniors and people with disabilities.
“While the current childcare assistance and other federal support programs are designed to help low- and moderate-income parents access care, these programs do not serve those families who are eligible for federal assistance, who cannot find a job and who need a safe and caring home,” the letter reads.
The letter cites the fact that the average cost of childcare assistance is $9,300 a year, or about $4,500 for each child.
The NNU letter says it is “essential that we have the flexibility to meet these needs and to help our members pay their bills.”
The group says there are more than 2.5 million children and seniors in the country who cannot access child care.
According to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly half of child care costs in 2016 were for families that earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
The groups letter also notes that a study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2017 found that in the state of New York, where the average child care cost is $2,000, nearly one-third of child caregivers make less than $25,000 a year.
It adds that in states like California, Rhode Island and Minnesota, the average annual child care subsidy is $7,500.
“Child care assistance, or child care subsidies, has not been available to families who do not qualify for federal child care assistance,” the NNUS letter reads, adding that “even if you are eligible, there are still gaps in the support.”
The NNs letter asks the Department of Health & Human Services to consider offering incentives for those who can pay for child care at a lower cost, including vouchers to families that do not have income to qualify.
“These vouchers could be used for child-care costs that are not covered by child care aid, such as rent, food, transportation and health insurance premiums,” the groups letter reads of the vouchers.
“Such vouchers should be distributed to families whose child care expenses are lower than the federal maximum child care reimbursement amount.”
The groups call on the Trump administration to include these vouchers in the proposed FY17 budget for child development grants, which are meant to help states fund child care services for low and moderate income families.
“A recent analysis by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that while vouchers were available for nearly one third of child-free households, the majority of children were not receiving these resources,” the letters reads.
“The NNs has long called on the administration to provide a universal child care voucher program that would help families like the families that we know can’t afford child care, and that will also help millions who are in need.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 7 million children under the age of five live in poverty.