For more than a decade, Erin Farias has watched the low-income families who send children to the day cares she runs navigate America’s broken child care system. Many of those parents had government assistance for school tuition, but half the time, Farias couldn’t count on them to make their co-payments. They were still too high.

Subsidies are supposed to make care more accessible for those with the most need, but families in many states still struggle to pay child care bills. To be considered affordable by the Department of Health and Human Services, they must cost no more than 7 percent of a family’s income. But in more than half of states — including Michigan, where Farias runs two day care centers — families on assistance are required to pay much more than that.

Farias said many times, she’d just eat the cost of the co-payments, or let families rack up a large balance until, eventually, she’d have to ask them to find alternate care. “I was generous because I’m passionate about people who are at a disadvantage. I want to help those kids break through barriers and become something different. I don’t want to give up on them,” Farias said. “But I was barely making a profit, and my employees were making so little.”

Several times, those challenges led her to question whether to take on more low-income children, she said. About 40 percent of kids at Little Smiles Daycare, which Farias opened in 2013 and where she is the director, are on subsidies. Some 25 percent of kids in her second center, Little Smiles Christian Learning Center, are also low-income.

But the landscape of child care assistance is about to change — and costs are finally coming down.

At the end of February, President Joe Biden’s administration announced it was going to require every state to cap its co-payments so that families that receive subsidies pay no more than 7 percent of their income towards child care.

That’ll make a big difference in places like New Hampshire, West Virginia and Ohio, where those costs are eating up 18 to 27 percent of families’ budgets. Though the new rule doesn’t apply to the thousands of other families whose incomes are too high for a subsidy but are also paying exorbitant costs, it does address the acute need among the lowest-income families, most of whom are families of color. More than 100,000 families are expected to benefit.

With the change, families are expected to save about $200 a month on average, according to the White HouseThe new rule is effective April 30. Some states will be able to make the changes quickly; others will need approval from their legislatures. All will need to be in compliance by 2026.

“The affordability is key — that one is always the hardest thing that families are experiencing,” said Nina Perez, the early childhood national campaign director at MomsRising, a national network pushing for child care and other family policies. “It won’t be the same in all states, but how amazing that in some of the states where folks are struggling the most, this will make an impact.”

Read the full article about child care costs by Chabeli Carrazana and The 19th at EdSurge.