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Report: Child care issues cost Idaho $479 million a year

The study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation points to a shortage of child care providers, paucity of pre-kindergarten education programs.

BOISE, Idaho — A report released Friday morning by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation claims Idaho loses $479 million annually due to breakdowns in child care.

The report, titled “Untapped Potential,” says employers suffer direct losses of $248 million a year due to turnover related to child care issues and $166 million in absences related to those issues. The report said the state also loses $65.4 million in direct tax revenue tied to both the turnover and absences.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation worked with the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children to examine how much the issue costs Idaho. 

"First, parents either miss work completely, arrive late, or leave early," the report said. "Even if this does not occur, parents may still be distracted at work merely thinking about or receiving calls from their child care provider."

The report said that, on average, U.S. states lose $1 billion annually due to breakdowns in child care.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation surveyed 332 working parents of children 5 years and younger in Idaho. Thirty-one percent of Idaho parents surveyed said child care issues "significantly impacted" their employment over the past year. The impacts included voluntarily or involuntarily leaving their jobs, decreasing their work hours from full time to part time or being able to increase their work hours or accept a position.

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A shortage of child care providers and a paucity of pre-kindergarten education programs played a role in those issues, the report said.

"… (Forty) percent of Idaho children lack access to child care, affordability notwithstanding," according to the report. "Further exacerbating the lack of access is Idaho’s lack of state investment in early childhood education programs for children under 5, often putting child care options financially out of reach for Idaho’s working parents."

The child care provider shortage forces Idaho parents to rely on other family members for child care at a higher rate than many other states. Among the working parents surveyed, 90% relied on family for at least some child care, the report said.

"As policymakers and business leaders consider ways to position Idaho for success, investing in child care could enable Idaho to fully capitalize on its resources," the report's executive summary said.  

Just 15% of working parents surveyed in Idaho said their employers provide child care benefits.

Working parents surveyed said they wanted flexible working hours, on-site child care and paid maternity leave, the report said.

The report's conclusions said the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry's member companies recognize child care as an issue.

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