LAS VEGAS — It is one of the biggest expenses that comes with starting a family — child care.
So how do Democrats and Republicans differ when it comes to policies this election?
UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM
Meet Ronal and Marisela Portillo, parents of two-year-old Arlette Portillo.
The Portillos live in Las Vegas and count their blessings for an aunt who is able to care for Arlette each day while the Portillos work.
Child care is not a realistic, affordable option.
"It's too much to pay for daycare," Portillo told our Joe St. George recently.
Portillo isn't alone.
Affordability and child care access are top issues in many voters' minds this election.
Parents are now spending, on average, $10,600 a year per child.
Costs outpaced inflation last year.
There are 90,000 fewer childcare workers today than there were prior to the pandemic.
Many rural areas lack options altogether.
Meet Casandra Hall.
She is in the process of opening up a childcare center in Las Vegas.
"I have a passion for children," Hall said.
We met up to better understand why there is such a shortage. She says parents shouldn't think providers are getting too much money.
Expenses to run centers have increased too.
"How much would an instructor get paid?" St. George asked Hall — who currently works at another daycare.
"You would make less than $30,000 a year," Hall said.
"What's the biggest challenge to opening up a daycare right now?" St. George asked.
"Paperwork," Hall said.
For instance, during our visit, Hall was getting ready for a state inspection, which she has to pay for out-of-pocket — an expense that has to be passed on to her parents eventually.
Hall hopes her center — Children of the Way Learning Center — will be able to get up and running soon, but she says it is difficult doing it alone.
$45/a day is the cheapest option she will likely offer.
"I'm not doing it for the money," Hall said.
A grant from Wonderschool, an organization that increases access to early education, has helped with start-up costs.
In the current Congress, Democrats and Republicans have surprisingly agreed on some ways to solve the childcare conundrum going forward.
However, no compromise ever emerged, and no vote was ever taken.
There was, for a time, bipartisan agreement to expand the Child Care and Development Block Grant to cover more families.
There was even some movement to cap out-of-pocket costs at 7% for many families.
There was even a push to fund more childcare centers and improve pay.
But the disagreements ultimately prevented any votes.
Republicans and Democrats generally disagreed over income qualifications in order to receive benefits.
They disagreed over the amount of pay for childcare workers as well as guaranteed funding by the federal government.
Democrats generally wanted more funding to cover more families and made their proposals public in the Build Back Better legislation that stalled in 2021.
Republican Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) attempted to bridge the gap for Republicans by introducing legislation associated with the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
However, disagreements largely prevented any serious discussion.
According to the New York Times, Scott's program would have assisted families making under $142,000 a year.
A Democratic proposal would have assisted families making under $237,000 annually.
As for the Portillos, they just hope voters take a look at each party's platform this election.
They are members of the influential Culinary Workers Union in the battleground state of Nevada and tell us this issue is swaying voters.
"A friend was telling me, 'Hey, I got to pay $15 an hour, and my pay is $20. How can I afford that? Like, all my paycheck is going to that,'" Portillo said.