Report finds Idaho loses nearly $500 million due to inadequate child care options

Posted at 3:03 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 13:07:47-04

BOISE — Inadequate daycare options don’t just impact Idaho’s children; a new report claims it costs our economy big bucks too.

The lack of childhood programs carries a hefty price tag for our state’s economy. According to a new study done through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Idaho's economy loses $479,000,000 annually, and the majority is lost due to employees missing or leaving work because of child care struggles.

“If we were able to increase the number of programs serving young children, it would relieve a lot more stress for our families who would then be able to participate in the workforce," said executive director of Idaho AEYC Beth Oppenheimer.

There’s no one size fits all solution, but a place to start could be increasing seats at preschools.

“If there were more preschool options for children 3-5, it would hopefully relieve some of the stress and provide more opportunities for our infant and toddler care throughout Idaho," said Oppenheimer.

Sounds simple, but increasing seats is only possible if there’s an adequate workforce, something Idaho struggles with.

“You can certainly make more money working at Walmart than you can as a childcare provider," said Oppenheimer.

On average, child care providers make $9.77 an hour, according to Idaho AEYC. There’s a shortage of providers for this reason in our state.

"The industry itself is broken, and we need to find a way to help increase wages for our early childhood educators," said Oppenheimer.

The report finds 90% of parents the chamber spoke with rely on their family members for some form of child care, in part due to lack of access.

“Often, family is not available though so we need to find solutions that families are comfortable with, family childcare, whether that's center-based childcare, whether that's someone coming into your home," said Oppenheimer, "we’re going to have to look at all of those solutions."

Oppenheimer says this data is step one to creating a solution. She’s optimistic the next steps can be taken in a couple of years to increase childcare options and revenue in our state.

“This is not going to be solved tomorrow, we will be looking at this and looking at solutions over the next couple of years," said Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer also says public universities like Boise State and the University of Idaho have excellent children centers for their students and staff. Idaho AEYC is partnering with other businesses in the community to add childcare centers to their locations potentially.

Idaho AEYC says this report, along with the preschool development grants they’re offering to expand locations and seats for the more preschoolers potentially, is a good first step. You can find the full report here.