Adequate childcare is vital to Nebraska, priceless to parents

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Think of the words “economic development,” and visions of a another Parker Hannifin or Valmont come to mind to most of us.

Large factories with hundreds of employees don’t come along all that often, and efforts to develop smaller business with a dozen or fewer employers is more likely to sustain growth.

One common factor both large and small employers have in common is the need for childcare for todays working families.

How important is childcare?

Nearly $745 million, according to “the Bottom Line: Economic impacts of inadequate child care access in Nebraska report” from First Five Nebraska.

That’s how much inadequate child care costs Nebraska families, businesses and state tax revenues, according to the report conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bureau of Business Research.

Nearly 75% of Nebraska children are in some type of care while their parents work, making early childhood programs crucial to the state’s economy, through support to working parents on the job, allowing businesses to recruit and retain talent and help Nebraska’s future workforce develop cognitive and social-emotional skills for long-term success in school and life.

The McCook Economic Development Corp. is on board when it comes to childcare. Thanks to the MEDC’s New Childcare Provider Jump Start program, one existing childcare facility has been purchased and expanded, and another, home-based childcare business has been expanded into a dedicated facility, both in former churches.

Through a GAP loan, the MEDC helped Amanda Mullin purchase the former Kingdom Kids Daycare, renamed Young Bison Childcare, on Q Street near McCook Elementary, and Chelsy Eng was able to navigate zoning and other requirements to establish BlessEng’s Childcare on Norris Avenue, with room for 30 children.

“The report’s findings boil down to a simple conclusion: Inadequate child care is a serious barrier for improving family incomes, the bottom line of businesses and the economic growth of our state,” said Jason Prokop, director of First Five Nebraska, an early childhood policy and research organization. “To support the economic vitality of Nebraska families, businesses and our economy, it is imperative that parents, local stakeholders, employers and government come together to create effective, community-driven solutions that strengthen Nebraska’s early childhood infrastructure.”

Key findings of the study show that gaps in child care availability:

-- Cost Nebraska families up to $489 million a year in direct losses to household income from missed work and reduced hours. In some cases, working parents may forgo opportunities for higher-paying positions, or may even leave the workforce entirely.

-- Cost Nebraska businesses more than $234 million in direct losses annually due to decreased productivity and higher employee turnover.

-- Reduce Nebraska tax revenues by $21 million each year.

-- Direct losses due to child care gaps naturally multiply through the economy, as families lose income, tighten their belts and reduce spending, reducing profit for businesses and lowering tax revenue for the state.

That translates to $639 million in lost income to Nebraskans, $731 million in business output and $26 million in income tax revenues each year. Reduced economic employment also costs the state an estimated 3,337 jobs per year.

There’s no question adequate childcare is vital to Nebraska’s economic, but as to peace of mind for working parents, adequate childcare is priceless.

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