ERDC expansion spells economic opportunity

Programs like ERDC help families move from poverty to self-sufficiency

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We have plenty to celebrate about the just-finished legislative session. Our elected officials took bold action to meet the needs of Oregon families, and their dedication led to significant wins, like paid sick leave, retirement security, and ending racial profiling and hiring discrimination — legislation that will give Oregonians a fair shot at success and move the entire state forward. Lawmakers also voted to make crucial investments in services that benefit Oregon families, like Employment Related Day Care (ERDC). We’re proud of the progress that our legislators  have made for working families, but there’s still plenty more that can be done.

Working parents know how important it is to have reliable child care. But child care is expensive, especially in Oregon: We have some of the least affordable child care in the country. The average annual cost of placing an infant in a care center is more than half of the median income for single mothers in Oregon. And in Multnomah County, the median cost for center-based toddler care in 2014 was $1,137 per month — more than the cost of full-time tuition and fees at Portland State University.

Employment Related Day Care is a valuable program that makes safe and reliable child care affordable, which makes it easier for parents to hold down a steady job. ERDC is also good for our kids — safe and healthy environments foster growth and learning, and the program helps children prepare for school.

The average family on ERDC will have $798 a month paid to their child care provider. For families, that’s eight hundred dollars freed up for rent, health care, groceries, or even a savings plan. Programs like ERDC help families move from poverty to self-sufficiency, and we’re happy that our legislators worked to expand and strengthen it.

This session our legislators made sure 8,000 working families could afford high quality child care. This additional investment in ERDC will make a positive economic impact throughout the state, but too many families are still in need of help.

Only about 16% of the eligible kids in Oregon are served by ERDC, and 4,000 eligible families who applied for the program had been put on the reservation list. If we truly want to make game-changing investments and give all Oregon families opportunities to thrive, we need to do more.

According to ERDC, it would cost an additional $32 million to ramp up to serve 11,500 families. That may sound like a lot of money, but it’s an investment we should strive for. Helping families afford reliable childcare is a simple way to improve Oregon’s economy, and it sets our kids on a path toward success.

While we’re celebrating the victories that were won this session, let’s not forget that there’s still more work to do. Let’s keep looking ahead, and make sure we take the right steps to create the Oregon that we all deserve.

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