The childcare industry is facing ongoing challenges stemming from the pandemic, yet members of Congress continue to debate the merits of federal investments in essential benefits like childcare as they consider a new legislative package. We are in a dire situation, and it’s critical that policymakers understand that more funding equals more opportunity to offer quality childcare service, which will benefit our workforce and our economy.
I offer you two perspectives on this issue, one as a small business owner and the second as a childcare provider myself. Small businesses across the board are struggling to attract and retain talented employees. Access to affordable childcare is a key barrier for parents reentering the workforce, and it is essential for working families with young children. In fact, more than 65 percent of working parents have children under the age of six.
Childcare shortages historically impact women disproportionately. More than one million women left the labor force between February 2020 to January 2022, accounting for 63 percent of all jobs lost, many due to concerns about childcare.
At the same time, small childcare providers like me are struggling to recover from the pandemic and need support. Between December 2019 and March 2021, nearly 9,000 childcare facilities and nearly 7,000 licensed family child care (fcc) programs shut down according to Child Care Aware of America. As an industry that is one of the most egregiously compensated sectors of the U.S. economy, the labor shortage is adversely affecting childcare providers. Although I would like to offer my employees and myself better benefits, the cost of providing competitive salaries and benefits like healthcare, paid family leave and retirement are too burdensome for small establishments like mine without support from state or federal programs.
Trying to build early learning foundations for our youngest citizens without funding and qualified early childhood development specialists is a recipe for a failed economy. And without affordable and accessible childcare providers, the United States will continue to see worker shortages and a decrease in parents in the workplace. We need Congress to make these investments so that small businesses and their employees can thrive on their road to recovery.