Position – The Need for Adequate Public Subsidies to Provide High-Quality Child Care to All Missouri Children

February 2020


All young children deserve care that promotes their physical, mental, emotional and social well-being.

All parents should have access to high-quality care for their children, regardless of ability to pay.

Adequate child care subsidies are necessary to give low-wage workers the chance to provide their children with high-quality care while they are at work.



Reliable high-quality child care provides quality, continuity and stability that support the development of young children, strengthen families, and improve the economy.

Reliable high-quality child care reduces parents’ job turnover and improves their productivity on the job. Nationally, businesses are losing $4.4 billion in productivity and families are losing $8.8 billion in wages each year due to lack of child care.

Reliable high-quality child care is unaffordable for many families.  For example, the cost of child care for two children under age 5 at a child care center in Missouri is more than 70 percent of the income of the average single mother of two.

There are not enough high-quality child care facilities in Missouri. Ninety of Missouri’s 115 counties have only enough licensed facilities to serve one in three children under age 5.

Family caregivers who cannot obtain adequate child care are leaving infants, toddlers and other young children unattended in order to go to work, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Adequate subsidies are absolutely essential to make reliable high-quality child care generally available to working and job-seeking families and to reduce gender and racial inequities in access. Current low subsidies discourage high-quality providers from accepting children from low-income families, and providers that accept the low subsidies now available have a harder time retaining strong staff and achieving program quality.

The state has not done enough to monitor provider compliance with government mandates. State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released an audit that documented the failure of the state to address non-compliance issues among providers who receive federal funding through the Missouri Child Care Subsidy Program, including billing practices, staffing ratios and fire safety.



Increase provider reimbursement rates under the Missouri Child Care Subsidy Program to improve access to reliable high-quality care for the children of low-income working families. At minimum, the goal should be the 75th percentile of the state’s most recently published current child care market rates.

Expand eligibility for the Missouri subsidy to the national average. Missouri now limits availability to families whose income is 138% of the Federal Poverty Level or less, which is less than $2400 per month for a family of three. The national average is 180% of the FPL, which is about $3100 per month for a family of three.

Make all families whose income is too high to receive full benefits eligible for partial benefits.  Under current rules, a Missouri family whose income is low enough to be entitled to full benefits remains eligible for prorated benefits if the family’s income increases, up to 200% of the FPL. In contrast, a family whose income is too high to be entitled to full benefits but is less than 200% of the FPL is not eligible for any benefits at all. Any family whose income is under 200% of the FPL should be eligible for the subsidy based on the existing proration rules.

Insure that Missouri Child Care Subsidy Program funds are used in the interest of children by holding providers accountable for child safety, billing and accounting rules.