Las Vegas Sun

December 14, 2017

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Guest Column:

Heller-backed measure will aid Nevada kids, families

In nearly half the states across the country, including here in Nevada, child care is more expensive than in-state college tuition, meaning high-quality care is out of reach for many families. That’s especially the case for those living in poverty.

Tax reform now presents an opportunity to lend these families, and millions of American children, a helping hand.

The average cost of child care in the United States for a family with a toddler and an infant is $18,000 per year. That amount increases every year, and for Nevadans living near or below the poverty line it represents an insurmountable financial obstacle with broad reverberations across our nation’s workforce. According to Care.com’s recent Cost of Care Survey, two-thirds of working parents said child care worries have influenced their careers. And 75 percent of parents say their job has been affected when child care plans have fallen through.

We must do more to assist low- and middle-income families in affording high-quality care for their children and ensure they are equipped to rejoin the workforce if they so desire. High-quality child care can transform kids’ lives by preparing them to start school ready to learn and by spurring higher graduation rates. Helping families pay for it more easily should be a no-brainer.

As Congress continues to debate tax reform, we applaud Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., for his leadership on the Providing Affordable Childcare for Everyone Act, bipartisan legislation that changes the tax code to benefit kids and families, and urge Congress to include the bill in tax reform legislation lawmakers are considering.

The PACE Act would increase the value of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and make it fully refundable, directly benefiting low-income working families who face the biggest challenges in paying for the increasing cost of care for their kids.

Unlike the current law, this would allow low-income working parents to receive the same scale of financial benefit for child care as middle- and upper-income families. Further, indexing the credit to inflation will ensure the child care tax credit keeps up with rising costs of care for decades to come.

The bill was authored by Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Sen. Angus King of Maine, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats. We are grateful for Sen. Heller’s support of the bill, and we hope that tax reform legislation in the Senate will include this provision for low-income working families.

The PACE Act is ambitious, but it would provide critical assistance to thousands of American families and our nation’s workforce.

The current tax reform plans released by the House and Senate this month merely expand the Child Tax Credit, which is not tied to families’ child care expenses.

While this credit is important to taxpayers raising children, Congress must do more to specifically help families afford high-quality child care. That’s why we hope Sen. Heller is successful in his efforts to make certain the Senate includes the PACE Act and expands the CDCTC in its final package.

Without it, accessing high-quality early education programs is not an option for many children living in poverty, who are the very kids who stand to benefit most from such opportunities.

While Congress works on the tax reform bill, we urge Sen. Heller to remember that while children may only represent 20 percent of our population, they are 100 percent of our future. Investments in our kids are the best ones we, as a country, can make.

Mark K. Shriver is president of Save the Children Action Network. Kris Perry is executive director of the First Five Years Fund. Both groups advocate for increased federal investment in high-quality early childhood education for children from birth to age 5.

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