Study: Childcare issues cost state $3.5 billion per year


Pennsylvania loses nearly $3.5 billion a year due to breakdowns in childcare, according to a joint study led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The Foundation conducted several similar studies in other states after finding that several, including Louisana, Maryland, Georgia and Indiana, are losing an estimated $1 billion annually in economic activity as a result of childcare issues.

“Access to affordable, quality childcare is essential for working parents to enter, re-enter or stay in the workforce, yet it is hard to come by,” the Chamber Foundation’s website said. “The first years of life are critical for children to build a strong foundation upon which future learning is built, yet current supply cannot meet demand.”

The Pennsylvania study, conducted in partnership with the state Chamber of Business and Industry and Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, examined the current childcare situation across the commonwealth and found it lacking.

Specifically, the report found that Pennsylvania loses $591 million a year in tax revenue due to childcare issues; employee absences and turnover cost employers $2.88 billion annually; 55 percent of parents reported missing work due to childcare issues; more than 78 percent of parents rely on family members for some childcare; 38 percent of parents postponed school or training due to childcare issues and nearly 10 percent of parents left a job due to issues with childcare.

“We really appreciate this kind of report since it affirms that childcare impacts not only everyone at all economic levels, but also businesses,” said Carol Budd, of Summit Early Learning in Mifflinburg. “Maybe now people will sit up and pay attention. High-quality childcare benefits everyone. The return on investment is incredible, (with) every dollar invested returning $16.”

A report released in April 2018 by the Early Learning Investment Committee, a statewide organization established in 2008 to advocate for quality early education, said children with the highest need are being underserved due to an inadequate supply of quality early childhood education programs and affordable childcare is hindering many parents from being able to pursue better job opportunities.

“A lot of that nearly $3.5 billion loss is because parents have no place to put their kids in childcare,” said Art Thomas, chairman of the Early Learning Investment Committee of Susquehanna River Valley.

While Pennsylvania has increased spending to support early childhood education, Thomas said, it hasn’t been enough.

“Without it being fully subsidized it seems like an uphill battle,” he said.

The Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way has made the issue of increasing the number of quality childcare programs a priority, but “unfortunately it takes a lot of money,” said Joanne Sloneem, vice president of education at the agency.

With less than 30 percent of children under 5 in Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties receiving high-quality early learning programs, Sloneem said the issue has to be addressed since it clearly is more than just a family problem.

“Childcare has a huge impact on the workforce, she said.