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Around the country, EDO leaders are beginning to recognize lack of access to affordable childcare as a workforce issue. While it is widely understood that workforce issues are economic development issues, lack of affordable childcare as a deterrent to economic growth has been less recognized. Now, conversations amongst New York State EDO leaders are picking up steam.
Responses from both a Tompkins County Child Development Council parent survey and data collected from an Erie County study on access to childcare and workforce numbers illustrated the problem. Eleven percent of parents had dropped out of the workforce since 2019 due to lack of access to childcare. These are statistics that community leaders were concerned about pre-pandemic and find even more concerning now.
In a program sponsored by the NYS Association of Counties this March; Amie Hendrix, Deputy County Administrator of Tompkins County, Maria Whyte, Deputy County Executive of Erie County and Cathy Creighton, Director of Cornell University ILR Buffalo Co-Lab, presented on how New York State and its counties are working to increase the availability and affordability of childcare in communities across the state.
In Tompkins County, the pandemic presented many challenges for childcare services. Deputy Administrator Hendrix and her colleagues were able to assist non-profit childcare providers in accessing regional economic development council funding. They also worked toward securing more state funding and getting more childcare providers licensed and off the ground in Tompkins County. “We faced a worker shortage…but still worked within our resources and in the face of COVID”, Hendrix stated.
New providers faced the hardest challenges, but Tompkins County found solutions. “Construction projects pretty much stopped during the pandemic,” said Hendrix “but temporary buildings were set up and we’ve started working with the [construction] companies again.”
Deputy Administrator Hendrix is optimistic for the future of developing access to childcare in her region. It’s just a matter of changing mindsets and committing to a new paradigm.
In Orange County, Conor Eckert, Senior Development Officer & Vice President of Business Attraction, sees access to affordable childcare as a growing aspect of economic development in the Hudson Valley and beyond.
“Economic development continues to evolve - access to childcare and transportation are now important aspects of the growth equation. As we recover from the COVID pandemic, it is important to support equitable opportunities to enter and reenter the workforce. Access to childcare is crucial for doing just that. As we examine our economic development strategy, access to childcare will be a key topic of discussion. We look forward to collaborating with our partners in the public sector on this important issue,” said Eckert.
And in Warren County, NY, a resilience plan funded by the Cares Act calls for the creation of a fully staffed childcare network. This network will provide operational services like billing and scheduling for home childcare providers. Plan developers hope this will help childcare providers stay open and affordable, as well as encouraging new providers, supporting workforce growth.
The discussion is just beginning and is clearly one that economic development professionals will continue to work on. As you launch your own programs, don’t forget to market them well so that the community knows how your organization is helping.
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Tags: Economic Development