Last Thursday, February 2, 2023, the Council for a Strong America hosted a briefing on childcare and presented findings from a study conducted by ReadyNation, a coalition advocating for public investment in early childhood. The event opened with a statement from Rep. Jeff VanDrew (R-NJ), who emphasized the importance of ReadyNation’s work and the findings of the study. Panel participants included ReadyNation members Katie Ferrier (VP Education and Workforce Development, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce), and Jack McBride (CEO Contec Inc.) as well as Sarah Puleo, (Mother, Early Childhood Educator) and Sanda Bishop (Chief Research Officer of Council for a Strong America).
The study was a repeat of a study done in 2018, finding that annual costs of the “Child Care Crisis” had more than doubled since the first study ($57 billion in 2018 to $122 billion in 2022). This number was monetized from the results of a survey administered to parents with children under the age of 3 examining 4 categories: productivity, time at work, work disruptions, career pathways. 80% of brain development is completed between the ages of 0 and 3, and kids who miss out on quality care may start out behind. Panel participants emphasized the importance of education and quality care if we want to remain an economic competitor against other world leaders.
The COVID-19 pandemic certainly played a large role in the significant growth of the economic impact. The childcare workforce lost 80,000 employees (7.5%) leading to a decrease in both access and affordability. Parents struggle to find childcare as there is no centralized database for providers, and they rely on word-of-mouth and cold-calling to find an open spot somewhere. Panel members emphasized how extreme competition is for spots with the limited number of childcare providers, especially in rural areas who more frequently face childcare deserts. With staffing shortages, employees have to take on way too many children at a time, leading to low quality care. There must be investment in staffing and benefits for workers in early childhood fields.
McBride fielded questions about how employers can help. During the pandemic, his company allowed employees to switch shifts with each other and kept positions open for employees who had to leave for childcare reasons. They are looking to add parental leave for both mothers and fathers, staggered, so at least one parent can be home with their child for a longer period of time. They are also looking to partner with other businesses in the area to sponsor a daycare center exclusive to employees of the founding companies.
Last year, CWLA supported the Revised Child Care and Preschool Reconciliation Proposal, by Senator Murray and Senator Kaine, which would increase funding to the Child Care and Development Block Grant. The proposal would also increase accessibility and improve the quality of child care, and implement a price cap on child care for qualifying families. More information on the proposal and our statement of support can be found here. CWLA continues to advocate for further investment in childcare with the 118th congress.
By Maya Benysh, Policy Intern