Childcare challenges have long been identified as contributing factors to the workforce crisis, with employers unable to find qualified job applicants to fill open positions. Yet the impact is even more profound: A joint report in February 2020 co-authored by the PA Chamber and the U.S. Chamber titled “Untapped Potential: How Childcare Impacts Pennsylvania’s State Economy” showed that childcare-related absences and turnover cost Pennsylvania employers $2.88 billion annually, and childcare issues result in a nearly $3.47 billion loss each year to Pennsylvania’s economy – and this was before the pandemic, which severely disrupted the childcare industry. These topics and more were discussed at a House Children and Youth Committee informational meeting last week, in which PA Chamber Vice President of Government Affairs Alex Halper participated.
Halper emphasized that that employers must take the lead in helping to address these challenges. He described how, in 2021, the PA Chamber, the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission and the Central for Rural Pennsylvania partnered to conduct a childcare-focused survey of Pennsylvania employers of all sizes, across all regions of the state, to see how employers were responding to their employees’ childcare needs and identify areas of opportunity. Halper told lawmakers that while many employers strive to help meet childcare demands, they often have no formal process in place to gauge the need among their workforce.
“Improving the childcare landscape is critical to addressing workforce challenges and ultimately it is the responsibility of the private sector to drive solutions,” Halper said. He mentioned the U.S. Chamber’s five-step plan for employers which includes assessing working parents’ needs; talking to their team and managers; finding where there is flexibility in their business; implementing and communicating their plan and tracking their impact. He also spoke to what other states are doing to mitigate childcare challenges, including Michigan, which has implemented a program to split childcare expenses between employers, parents and the state; and Kentucky, where employers can partner with the state to create childcare funding assistance.
“It is not realistic to expect government to allocate the funding necessary to maintain a functional childcare system,” Halper told the committee. “That said, the PA Chamber has promoted among its members the legislature’s work last session to create a state childcare tax credit to complement the federal program and hopefully make childcare more affordable and help parents maintain or transition back into employment… Funding is critical and employers with the ability must lead in emphasizing employee benefits, and potentially childcare support, as internal budget priorities. Lawmakers can support the business community by embracing a legislative agenda that helps employers reduce costs in other areas. We further urge lawmakers to work with the childcare industry to identify and mitigate administrative and regulatory cost-drivers.”
Halper’s full testimony is available here.