Annual licensing fees for Arizona child care centers dropping to $1

The lower fees are the result of over a billion dollars in federal aid.
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 9:20 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- For years, annual licensing fees for child care centers have been hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars a year. But that is changing. Through the end of June 2024, those fees are dropping to $1.

The lower fees are the result of over a billion dollars in federal aid, $12 million of which was distributed from the Department of Economic Security (DES) to the Department of Health Services (DHS).

When Pilar Calderon first heard about the $1 licensing fees, the co-owner of My Little School in Phoenix and Mi Escualita Child Care in Tempe thought someone was playing a joke on her. “He’s kidding me!” Calderon said. “$1?”

But Pilar’s husband Carlos quickly let her know this was no laughing matter. “For us, it was a big difference saving a lot of money,” he said. “Regular fees are about $2,000.”

Carlos says the capacity for his Phoenix daycare center is 89. But previously, licensing fees went up when his facility served 60 or more people, so they kept the enrollment at 59. Now that it’s only a dollar fee, no matter the enrollment, his center has 82 children at their facility.

“This $1 for DHS, it’s very helpful,” Pilar said. “And we can provide more capacity for families in need.”

That’s what DHS Assistant Director of Licensing Tom Salow says is one of the goals of these unprecedented low fees. “Really, this should encourage better access to care,” Salow said. “Possibly not push those costs off to the parents.”

Salow says that in addition to increased capacity for existing child care facilities, the hope is that this will lead to new facilities opening for business. “As long as they have the tools in place, the licensing fees won’t be an issue, won’t play a factor in that,” Salow said.

Salow says this temporary program could be extended depending on how things go these next two years. But while fees are still a dollar, the Calderon’s are already looking into opening up a third child care facility. “If more people are trying to expand or open a new center, it’s a very good opportunity to do it,” Pilar said.

For more information on DHS licensing fees, you can visit this link on their website.