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Child Care is a Bipartisan Opportunity
A new ReadyNation report sheds light on a little-noticed national emergency facing our country. This crisis, which affects millions of people and costs billions of dollars, is a challenge that not only harms our economy, but potentially damages the lives of parents and children across the country.
How severe is this emergency? The infant-and-toddler child care crisis exacts a heavy toll on working parents, costing them $37 billion per year in lost wages and lost career opportunities as they scramble to find affordable, high-quality care for their young children. Employers themselves lose $13 billion annually thanks to lower productivity and higher costs associated with replacing old employees and training new ones. Meanwhile, taxpayers lose out on another $7 billion annually due to reduced tax revenues.
The total impact of the infant-and-toddler child care crisis is a loss of $57 billion every year.
That’s an alarming figure. It’s one that gives me pause as an American and, especially, as a parent.
That’s because the $57 billion number represents something beyond the massive amount of economic damage it indicates. It is that, to be sure. But it also represents harm done to career and financial aspirations of parents and potential long-lasting challenges for children who don’t get the early supports they need at a crucial time in their young lives.
As a father of two, that hits home. Although my daughter and son are now young adults, I don’t feel at all far-removed from the days when I could practically hold either of them in the palm of my hand. I’m proud of the people my children have grown to become, but I can’t help but contemplate who they may have become had they not had high-quality supports in their earliest years.
That’s the intractable dilemma many parents face every work day: How do I focus on my job when the most important things in my entire life need care? Care that may not be affordable. Care that may not be nearby. Care that may not be effective.
I’m proud of the people my children have grown to become, but I can’t help but contemplate who they may have become had they not had high-quality supports in their earliest years.
The hard choices these parents have to make don’t have any easy answers. They are choices I’m grateful that my wife and I were fortunate enough not to have to make. Nonetheless, the high cost and scarcity of high-quality child care forces parents to sacrifice in one aspect of their lives for the sake of the other.
The new ReadyNation report shows how deep this problem runs. According to survey data collected for the report, one-in-five parents suffered reprimands at work due to poor job performance caused by child care issues. About 13 percent had to quit their jobs altogether because of child care problems. Overall, one-third of all parents of infants and toddlers struggle to find child care.
Thankfully, awareness of the child care crisis is gaining some momentum among policymakers. This op-ed by former members of Congress Connie Morella (R-MD) and Jason Altmire (D-PA) highlights an example of lawmakers’ resolve and willingness to act.
We saw the same resolve and willingness to work together in the last two fiscal years, when, in the face of intense budget pressure, Congress nearly doubled funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). This bipartisan achievement was a bold step in support of children and working families, and has already made some early strides in boosting child care availability and quality around the country.
There’s still much more work to do. While the doubling of CCDBG funding was both bold and impactful, it must be sustained. Congress must make a commitment to the states to maintain or increase the current level of CCDBG funding for the sake of kids, working families, and our economy.
Congress should move quickly to support policies that make child care affordable to most working families. That means maintaining a commitment to prioritize CCDBG funding, as well as exploring bipartisan, new, and innovative ways to enhance child care options throughout the nation.
Working parents will thank them for it, and our economy, our country, and our next generation will be stronger as a result.
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