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Child Care Impacts All & Requires All Hands On Deck

Recently, a local economic developer stated that area unemployment was 3.3% - back to pre-COVID-19 levels - and that there were almost 300 more openings listed on Indeed than there were un-employed persons. The inability to fill jobs, attract new employees and retain those employees are bothersome issues for business and industry both locally and across Iowa. One barrier to filling those jobs and retaining that employee is child care.

Quality child care is really a two-generation workforce issue. It is critical for our current workforce so that they can get a job, go to work and be productive, knowing their child is safe and getting the education and care they need. It is absolutely essential for young children as the first years are crucial in brain development, setting them up for life long success. It is also a wise investment that provides a 13% -16% Return on Investment (ROI), according to leading economists from across the country.

This information is not new. The brain science has been there for 30+ years. Child care has long been an issue in the area, but we are now at critical levels. The lack of child care is having a larger impact on our local and state economies and the issue is finally getting more and more attention, rightly so as it does have an impact on our society as a whole. In fact, according to the US. Chamber Foundation’s February 2020 report, Iowa has untapped potential that equates to a $935 million loss annually due to child care issues.

Roughly 38% of that annual loss is due to employee absenteeism, tardiness or work place distraction stemming from child care breakdowns. Whether parents arrive late, leave early or don’t work at all, there is a cost to businesses and their other employees to pick up the slack created by the absence. The cost to businesses includes overtime expenses and/or temporary help to cover the work load and can lead to morale issues and resentment between employees.

If parents are unable to find the child care they need, they are likely to leave the workforce altogether, whether it be voluntary or involuntary. This turnover costs Iowa employers and is equates to approximately $429 million or 46% of the total loss to Iowa. Roughly 6% of Iowa’s parents plan to leave their job because of child care issues and most do so in the first one to three years of their child’s life. Many parents find child care to be unaffordable or unavailable upon the arrival of their second child.

The Iowa tax revenue is also impacted by child care issues. It is estimated that approximately $153 million is lost annually due to the decrease in income tax as parents leave the workforce and reduce their consumption of goods and reservices. So, as parents have to tighten the family budget, so does the local and state economy.

Whether society want to acknowledge it or not, child care impacts us all. It is an economic, workforce, community and education issue. It is complex and it will require ‘all hands-on deck’ working together to successfully address our child care issues. It is time to advocate for legislative changes and to work together as a community to address the issue.

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