By Monica Hernandez
If you're struggling to pay for child care, you're not alone. A new report released Tuesday shows that nine months of child care for an infant could exceed the cost of one year's tuition at the University of Mississippi.
Ashley Donald is a full-time student and the single mother of three children. Her kids used to go to child care five days a week -- until she lost her certificate to help cover the cost.
"My three-year-old was having surgery, and we were in and out of doctor's offices," she says. "I couldn't stop to report a status change in my household."
She missed the deadline to report that she wasn't working anymore and lost her subsidy to help pay for child care. She once paid $100 a month. Now she pays $100 a week for only three days of child care.
"I understand they give you a time limit, but they also need to look at what's going on in that family," Donald said.
She's not the only one who lost her certificate for child care. The Child Care Development Fund should cover all families that make eighty-five percent or less of the state's median income. But many families who should qualify say they're being turned away, despite meeting all the requirements.
Beth Orlansky, a childcare advocate for the Mississippi Low-Income Childcare Initiative, says it's a common complaint.
"My phone has been ringing off the hook with people who don't understand why they've been cut off," Orlansky said. "The main problem is that there's not enough funds."
That's why child care providers across the state were lobbying at the State Capitol Tuesday. They're talking with legislators about two House bills that will help provide more funds for child care. The bills passed through the House on Monday, but they have yet to be approved by the Senate.
Childcare providers say those bills are all important for Mississippi's workforce and its children.
"When we improve child care, we increase workforce participants, and we strengthen our economy and our tax base," said Ed Sivak, director of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center. "It allows us to move forward as a state."
The Mississippi Economic Policy Center introduced a report Tuesday suggesting ways the state could help fund child care programs.
"Over the last couple years, Mississippi has not used between $19.5 million and $30 million of available federal funds to get and keep Mississippians working," Sivak said.
Those funds are from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The money is set aside to help low-income families get into and stay in the workforce. And affordable child care is an important part of that.