HANOVER – Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger said he hopes to strengthen America’s child care industry and lessen the financial burden it places on working families with the bill he announced Wednesday at a day care facility here.
“Blue collar, white collar, whatever,” Ruppersberger said, “families are suffering and we need to give relief to these people.”
Ruppersberger, the Cockeysville Democrat and soon-to-be grandfather, announced at the Childtime Learning Center that when Congress returns from the holiday break, he will introduce the Right Start Child Care and Education Act of 2007.
One goal of the bill is to increase the child care tax credit from $3,000 to $5,000 per child with a cap of $10,000.
According to a report issued by the Maryland Committee for Children, the average estimated day care cost for a household with two children in the state can run from $8,993 in Somerset County all the way up to $19,920 in Howard County.
Derek Spink, an Odenton resident, has been taking his 18-month-old son, Conner, to Childtime since he was seven weeks old and estimates he and his wife, who both work full-time government jobs, pay upwards of $12,000 a year in child care. He also said their current tax credit is only $600 because of their tax bracket.
“Anything would help,” Spink said.
Maryland has close to 200,000 licensed child care centers, all of which are generally at capacity and “the demand is expected to triple by 2011,” said JoAnn Johnson, vice president of operations for the Learning Care Group, Childtime’s parent company.
Workers currently have the option to contribute $5,000 into the Dependent Care Assistance Program, which means they get $5,000 worth of on-site child care or reimbursement from their employer for off-site care. This contribution is made with pre-tax dollars, which means savings at tax time.
It may not be the best option for some families, however, said Steve Jost, legislative director for Ruppersberger, adding the bill is about increasing options.
Businesses currently receive a maximum tax credit of $150,000 as incentive to construct workplace child care facilities. The bill boosts that to $225,000, Ruppersberger said.
The bill also provides incentives to improve the quality of child care. College graduates with degrees in early childhood education, child care, or a related field would receive a credit of $2,000, for a maximum of three years, to work as a child care provider.
Child care is second only to mortgages as the American family’s greatest expense, Ruppersberger said.
In Spink’s case, he said that if he and his wife have a second child, their monthly child care bills would eclipse their mortgage payments.
“Middle America needs help,” Ruppersberger said, “I think helping children is the best way.”