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Some parents can spend more on childcare than they do on food

A new Treasury Department report found that childcare costs are high, yet wages are low.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Some federal officials are calling on Congress to take action on rising childcare costs. Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that they wanted Congress to cut the costs of childcare by half for most families. They argue it would help keep women in the workforce.

“If we intend to fully recover from the pandemic, if we intend to fully compete on a global scale, we must ensure the full participation of women in the workforce,” Vice President Harris said.

She also said policies regulating the costs of child care could help save the average family around $15,000 a year.

“The free market works well in many different sectors, but childcare is not one of them," Yallen said. "It does not work for the caregivers; it does not work for the parents. It does not work for the kids. And because it does not work for them, it does not work for the country."

One Knoxville mom, Christy Smith, said that she was paying nearly $1,500 per month for childcare before she moved to East Tennessee.

Eventually, she found the Boys and Girls Club which proved itself to be an invaluable resource for childcare. Now she continues to take her kids to the Boys and Girls Clubs in East Tennessee.

An average family with just one child under 5 years old would need to devote 13% of their income to childcare, data shows. That's more than an average family spends on food.

"Even now, with the expenses of everyday life, it is a very important thing for moms with stable jobs," said Smith. "As a single mother, I would not have been able to make it."

Rising childcare costs lead to stressed parents, lower levels of women holding jobs and widening levels of inequality, according to officials.

"It's a difficult feeling, of having to sacrifice that. Although it's important because your children need childcare and when you are battling the financial situation that you're in, you sometimes have no choice," said Smith.

The Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley serves up to 500 kids across 17 locations. Chief of Operations Markus Jackson said they are one of the few places that offer affordable childcare at $25 a week during the school year.

"I think for us here at Boys and Girls Club, being able to provide affordable childcare has taken our numbers to heights that we hadn't seen in over a couple of years," Jackson said. "Our phones are constantly ringing, ensuring that a child can get an opportunity that they need so that those parents can work.”

But officials said that they're struggling too. Jackson said they won't be able to accept many more kids if they don't get more staff members.

"Our biggest thing through the pandemic has been trying to find employees who are willing to work," he said. "We do have some available spots, but that depends on the number of employees that we can hire."

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