Last week, Mat Erpelding—our VP of Government & Community Relations—attended a conference on childcare hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Recently, the U.S. Chamber Foundation partnered with the Idaho business community to understand the economic impacts of childcare access challenges. The result was Untapped Potential, a report that suggests there is tremendous untapped economic potential if Idaho childcare challenges are solved.
The report speaks for itself: a $479 million annual loss for Idaho’s economy. The cause of this loss? The lack of state investment in early childhood education programs. Childcare options remain financially out of reach for working parents, and 40% of those with access are lacking quality childcare.
Of the 332 working parents surveyed, only 5% are offered paid maternity leave or onsite childcare. While these are two of the three benefits most desired by working parents, they are rarely offered and the #1 benefit—the need for flexible working hours—is disregarded. This causes ½ of Idaho parents to miss work due to breakdowns in childcare, and 23% of those enrolled in school or training programs to discontinue their learning. These absences, and consequent employee turnover, cost employers $414 million per year and stifle the earning potential of Idaho community members.
We know that early childhood education is crucial to the emotional and cognitive development of young children; however, it must be seen as equally beneficial for parents and the state’s workforce and economy.
The good news? Idaho has just received a $3.3 million federal Preschool Development Grant, and policy makers and business leaders should acknowledge how an effective investment in childcare could encourage Idaho to fully capitalize on its resources.
According to the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (IAEYC), “the one-year grant will focus on research, planning, collaboration and coordinating on early childhood systems across the state. Idaho was one of only six states and territories that was awarded funding for this initial planning grant.” In this process, local businesses like St Luke’s should act as a model, offering employees onsite early childhood development programs open 6 a.m.- 6 p.m., Monday-Friday. Such accessible care options provide the necessary support for the current and future workforce.
Recently, Idaho’s Senator Jim Risch recorded a video supporting the IAEYC grant. It can be viewed below.
To read the full Untapped Potential report by the U.S. Chamber Foundation, click here