Ohio Business Leaders Call for Federal Child Care Support
Strengthening the child care sector is crucial for workforce and economic development
On Wednesday September 29, Ohio business executives and Ohio Chamber of Commerce President Steve Stivers urged Congressional leaders to increase federal support for state-based child care programs during a roundtable on the importance of child care to the economic recovery and long-term economic growth.
The event, “Child Care Recovery: The Economic Path Forward in a Post-Pandemic America,” was organized by the Hunt Institute, a North Carolina-based nonpartisan think tank that focuses on early childhood, and ReadyNation. The objective of the forum was to further educate policymakers, employers, educators, and opinion leaders on the profound scope of the problems facing the child care system and urge more of them to action.
Steve Stivers, a strong supporter on early childhood issues as a decade-long member of Ohio’s Congressional delegation, said the time has come for increased federal support for child care. “Ohio businesses and workers are facing long-simmering challenges—and finding reliable, affordable, and safe child care is one of the most pressing,” said Stivers, who left Congress to take the job with the Ohio Chamber. “The business community can and will step forward to help, but we need additional federal investment as well. No Ohio worker should have to choose between family and work.”
Other Ohio business executives agreed. “Business leaders have a role to play in helping their employees find child care options, but they can’t solve the crisis by themselves.” said Danielle Folliet Munk, a member of ReadyNation and the Chief Operating Officer of Global Healthcare Services, which has placed about 400 healthcare professionals since the start of the pandemic. “Improving the child care system so that it strengthens working families, children, and our economy will require that employers, parents, and state and federal policymakers work together and increase investments.”
“The lack of high-quality, affordable, reliable child care is a huge drain on our economy,” said Jim Spurlino, another ReadyNation member and Chief Executive Officer of Spurlino Materials, an Ohio-based company with over 150 employees. “We need a healthier child care system right now—for our country’s recovery from a crisis—and so that we’ll have the workforce we need in the future.”
The discussion began with a recorded message from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who previously served as a U.S. Senator for 12 years. “Access to quality child care is vitally important to Ohio families and to the workforce,” DeWine said in the video. “Our administration, working closely with the legislature, has made historic investments in children and in their care, but there certainly is more to do.”
Gov. DeWine praised the Hunt Institute and ReadyNation for hosting the forum. Hunt Institute President and CEO Javaid Siddiqi praised the work of state governments during the pandemic crisis and urged all parties in the pandemic’s aftermath to strengthen the child care system permanently.
“State leaders worked overtime to address the immediate needs to sustain child care during the pandemic and made innovative changes quickly. Federal funding and flexibility helped facilitate those changes, but, as those dollars ran out, some states had to roll back these innovations,” Siddiqi said. “During our recovery from this national crisis, federal, state, and local government and business leaders have to come together to build a stronger and better child care system for the sake of our nation’s future.”
Access to quality child care is vitally important to Ohio families and to the workforce
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine
“The nation was struggling with a child care crisis well before the pandemic began, and COVID-19 made the crisis worse,” said Barry Ford, President and CEO of Council for a Strong America. “The people of Ohio, and people in every state in the nation, need greater access to high-quality child care to provide children with a strong foundation in life and to help revive our economic strength by improving parents’ ability to be present and productive on the job.”
A letter signed by 52 senior business executives (signing in their private capacity) was sent to every member of Congress last week. The letter outlines steps those signers urge Congress to take “to address one of the biggest barriers to economic recovery and growth: lack of affordable, quality child care.”
Even before the pandemic, a 2019 ReadyNation report examining the nation’s infant-toddler child care crisis described the consequences: an annual cost of $57 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue. At the start of the pandemic, the child care sector lost one in six workers, disproportionately women and especially women of color.
Child care jobs are returning—but there are still enormous challenges. Child care workers make very little money, as noted in a recent Washington Post report that detailed workers turning down open jobs because a nearby donut shop was paying higher wages. The U.S. Treasury Department just two weeks ago issued a report calling the current system “unworkable,” and stating that families with preschoolers pay more for child care than the average family spends on groceries.
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