Child Care is Essential to Reviving and Protecting the Economy
Preserving the child care industry will help our economy recover
As the former Chairman and CEO of Casey’s General Stores in Iowa, I have seen the tremendous economic merit in providing workers with access to high-quality, affordable child care. Casey’s headquarters established a Child Development Center for our employees, which attracted talent and increased retention while boosting morale, performance, and overall success. These results make sense, as child care is a critical element of a successful workforce.
In these trying times of economic and social uncertainty, we must remember the important role child care plays in our economy—and in the development of our nation’s children. Child care helps keep Iowa and the country running. Quality, affordable child care is essential to all working parents. To keep our economy strong, we need to protect and sustain the child care industry, for the dire needs of the present and the promise of a bright future.
Like all small businesses, the COVID-19 health emergency is hitting the child care sector hard. Stay-at-home orders and millions of Americans losing their jobs are making it difficult for child care businesses to stay afloat during the pandemic. Meanwhile, those still going into work, like health care professionals and other essential workers, find themselves in desperate need of child care.
Child care providers both need to get through COVID-19, and play a central role in stimulating America’s economic recovery.
This immense pressure on the child care industry comes at a time when our nation is already in the middle of an infant-and-toddler child care crisis. A recent ReadyNation report found that an overwhelming 86 percent of primary caregivers said problems with child care hurt their efforts or time commitment at work. The report also found that productivity problems cause employers to lose $12.7 billion annually due to child care challenges faced by their workforce. All of this and more contribute to the annual $57 billion cost our nation bears as a result of the infant-and-toddler child care crisis.
With this underlying crisis already in play, it’s especially important for us to protect this vital sector during a pandemic that threatens the existence of many providers. To stay in business throughout the pandemic, child care providers will need access to financial resources to help their workers and make sure their facilities are safe. If child care providers aren’t financially supported during the COVID-19 health crisis, they won’t be able to survive economically now and will struggle to re-open once the pandemic ends.
If child care providers aren’t there to support working parents, those parents will have to adjust their re-entry into the workforce. This re-adjustment will significantly stunt our economy’s post-COVID-19 recovery, as well as potentially harming the children of working families by preventing them from being in high-quality, supportive environments.
I, like all of us, want to win the fight against COVID-19 as soon as possible. A key component in this battle is to recognize the important role that child care plays in the development of children and in the economic recovery of our nation. Now, more than ever, I’m reminded that providing our employees with child care support helped Casey’s General Stores grow as a company. It was one of the best decisions we ever made.
I’m hopeful that our leaders in Congress will make a similar decision by recognizing the essential role that child care can, will, and must play in helping our nation’s workforce get back on its feet.
Robert J. Myers is the retired Chairman & CEO of Casey’s General Stores. He is a member of the ReadyNation CEO Task Force on Early Childhood and resides in Ankeny, Iowa.
Read More About