'It takes a toll on you': Moms discuss child care strains as legislators push for funding

NOW: ’It takes a toll on you’: Moms discuss child care strains as legislators push for funding

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Child care access was in the spotlight at two Milwaukee area events Monday, May 8, as parents, providers and legislators consider the current landscape and what's ahead when federal funding of one program is set to expire.

The first event was a roundtable discussion on maternal health at Little Village Play Café in Wauwatosa.

The discussion was led by state Rep. Robyn Vining (D - Wauwatosa) and state Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D - Milwaukee). The topics included issues around the mental, emotional, financial and physical tolls of parenting. Among the issues was also the stress of finding quality and accessible child care.

"Wondering how am I going to pay my bills and who's going to care for my child while I do that takes such a mental toll on parents," Erin Phillips, a mother from Wauwatosa, told CBS 58.

"It takes a toll on you, personally," Maggie Corry Steinbach, also a mother from Wauwatosa, said. "And I just think as a society we're failing mothers and it's time for Wisconsin to look at that in terms of policy."

A separate event drew attention to the National Day without Child Care.

"In Wisconsin, good, safe, quality child care is hard to find," Sen. Johnson said at a news conference at the Northside YMCA. She added more than half of Wisconsin families live in what's called a child care desert -- where facilities for day care and other services are in short supply.

"There is an extreme shortage of care providers and parents are struggling to find reliable, quality child care at affordable prices," Rep. Kalan Haywood (D - Milwaukee) said.

"We must be determined that we all move forward together and that means affordable child care for Wisconsinites," Rep. Vining added.

Milwaukee area legislators are calling for continued funding of Child Care Counts -- a pandemic-era program supporting child care providers financially. But the federally funded program is set to be cut in half in June and completely run out in 2024.

"We as providers could use is continued funding to help continue bringing in high-quality teachers to be in our classrooms and to keep them," Noreen Collins, the early childhood education director at Northside YMCA, said in an interview.

The hope is that with continued funding of Child Care Counts, providers are able to keep staff levels adequate, their doors open and spots available for children. That, in turn, could help parents find accessible child care, reduce stress and keep them in the workforce.

With the program set to run out of federal funding, the state would have to pick up the costs if the program is to continue. The state's Joint Committee on Finance -- controlled by Republicans -- will determine if that funding will go into the state budget for the next two years.

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