THE CURRENT economic crisis created tremendous strains for families nationally and in the Philadelphia area, as well as for child care providers already rendered vulnerable after years of inadequate federal support for child care.

The hardship is clear - in Southeastern Pennsylvania, a parent can expect to pay more than $19,600 a year for center-based care for an infant and a toddler. Yet, the vast majority of low-income families are unable to receive help paying for child care. And with the economic downturn, our state has more than 15,000 children waiting for child care subsidy - the largest number ever.

Increased federal investments in this critical area will assist in reaching at-risk households, allowing child care programs to serve more families and hire additional staff. Low-income families struggling to pay all of their bills will receive the help they need to afford stable child care. Child care provides not only piece of mind, but opportunities for parents to receive job training, find employment, and remain working.

The licensed child care sector allows parents to earn more than $100 billion annually - generating nearly $580 billion in direct and indirect labor income, approximately $69 billion in tax revenues, and more than 15 million jobs.

Leading economists agree that devoting dollars to quality early care and education is one of the wisest investments that policymakers can make.

Suzann Morris ,

Child Care Policy Associate,

Public Citizens for Children and Youth