AUSTIN (KXAN) — Childcare affordability is on the mind of councilmember Vanessa Fuentes. She and her colleagues on the Austin City Council passed a resolution earlier this year that makes opening a childcare facility easier and cheaper, and she says more needs to be done.

Finding adequate childcare has become a timely and expensive issue for parents around the country and here in Travis County. Brightwheel, a childcare management software, estimates the average cost of childcare in Austin is $1,100 a month. Fuentes sees the same thing.

“I have families in my district who are paying up to $1,100 a month in childcare. And that is tuition-level prices,” Fuentes explained.

She said there is a need to have a dedicated revenue source for funding childcare operations that will create more options for parents and offset some of the prices. Fuentes and her colleagues are actively studying how to make it possible.

“In the coming months we’re going to be exploring what that looks like as a community and know that we are committed to doing something big in our city around it,” Fuentes explained.

A lack of childcare capacity

Texas Health and Human Services data shows there are 232,697 kids under the age of 13 living in Travis County, but childcare providers in the area only have a capacity for 56,036 kids.

A survey conducted in 2022 by Success by 6 found that 89% of childcare providers in Travis County had difficulty hiring new staff.

The lack of supply for childcare has created long waitlists for parents trying to get their kids into daycare.

Kim Kofron, the senior director of education for Children at Risk, an organization dedicated to researching and addressing public policies that affect children, said parents are having to make tough choices.

“They’re getting super creative with friends and family care, with neighbor care, keeping older siblings home from school to take care of younger siblings,” Kofron explained.

Kofron said childcare providers are unable to provide livable wages for their employees, further exacerbating the issue. Less staff means a fewer amount of children can stay at the provider.

“What parents can pay, and what providers can pay their staff is not enough to build that sustainable system,” Kofron said.