Childcare Means Business
Families in Nevada County need high quality, affordable child care. Studies show that quality child care helps children develop and thrive. However, quality child care also impacts our entire community because investments in the childcare sector are critical for the continued functioning and recovery of our economy. Providing direct support to local childcare businesses promotes economic stability by ensuring families can return to work.
“The COVID-19 pandemic spotlights how child care is a pillar of our economic infrastructure. It also spotlights the gross deficiencies and inequities that were pre-existing conditions prior to the pandemic,” said Rossnina Dort, MA ECE, Director, Early Education Services, Local Planning Council for Child Care and Development. “Some programs and child care educators will weather this crisis, yet many others will not, further exacerbating unequal access for children and families. Investing in accessible, affordable, and quality child care is essential to keep children learning, families working, and our economy thriving.”
Unfortunately, the need to access the critical support of affordable, reliable, and high-quality early learning and child care far outpaces their current capacity, and many families across the county cannot afford the cost of quality child care. In fact, the cost of quality child care is as high or higher than the cost of in-state college tuition.
Without access to early learning and care, parents tend to miss work, lowering household incomes and potentially leading to job loss. Many parents are unable to enter or return to the workforce at all due to a lack of affordable, reliable care for their children. Supporting families with the cost of quality preschool and child care will result in a more efficient and productive American workforce in both the short- and long-term.
Current child care landscape in Nevada County
Each year, the parents of nearly 12,000 Nevada County children under age 12 struggle to find suitable child care to support their employment and career advancement. Inadequate child care acts as a barrier to worker productivity and to economic growth.
Access: Nevada County has a child care shortage, especially for vulnerable and low-income children. Subsidized child care for low-income families is only available to 34% of working families. Availability is even more limited for families who have infants and toddlers, work evening and night shifts, or live in more rural areas. Recent surveys of parents, conducted by the Child Care Coordinating Council for Nevada County with assistance from First 5 Nevada and Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, show 77% of parents report having difficulty finding child care. The shortage of child care programs creates limited access to child care and long waiting lists. Services are most scarce for vulnerable populations. We currently have an 88% unmet need for children 0-35 months old who are eligible for subsidized care and 60% unmet need for children 3-4 years old who are income-eligible for publicly subsidized early learning and care.
Affordability: Cost to families is a barrier to accessing care for low- and middle-income families. A middle income family ($63,240) with one preschool child in a child care center will spend 19% of their annual income. A parent earning $12/hour working full time would spend 62% of their gross income on an infant in a child care center.
Quality: Only a fraction of child care in our county is quality rated through Quality Counts CA, a state certified rating system. Among the shortcomings in quality are high rates of provider turnover, resulting in a lack of stable, consistent caregiving for young children.
When families cannot secure the child care they need, their work opportunities are undermined. Family incomes are lower, workplace productivity falls and economic activity is reduced. Businesses suffer and tax revenues are lower. By helping working families, high quality child care boosts the economy. Inadequate or limited child care, by contrast, imposes burdens on workers, businesses, and taxpayers. Failing to prioritize and invest in child care now will only exacerbate child care closures and inequities.
Access to affordable, quality child care is crucial for economic recovery. The recent parent surveys conducted by the Child Care Task Force showed that parents who cannot work in person or remotely without childcare have to make major changes at work, such as: adjusting their available work hours; looking for a different job; or, leaving the workforce entirely.
Child care is not only essential for families, but also for employers and our state’s economic health. A recent study by the Council for a Strong America has shown that lost wages, business and tax revenue due to lack of access to child care totals $9.1 billion annually. The pandemic has exposed the reality that women, particularly women and single parents, have lost the most during this economic downturn. When families do not have access to child care, women are the ones leaving their careers to care for their children.
As communities throughout the country make decisions about schools reopening and online learning, parents are struggling to maintain work while tending to their children. When evaluating the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, the nation’s already simmering childcare crisis is emerging as the primary obstacle to long term economic recovery. This crisis brings a myriad of consequences, primarily severe economic implications for women and children.
Funds through the COVID Local Recovery Funds can address the underlying systemic deficiencies that have made the early and school age child care sector and its workforce especially vulnerable during this health crisis by establishing universal access to early and school age care and education, fair wage standards for this workforce, retention of a qualified workforce, and quality site certification for the care and education of all young children.
Child care is essential. Safe and stable child care is critical to keeping kids learning, parents earning, and our economy thriving.
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