Pennsylvania Chambers of Commerce Call for State Action to Address Child Care Crisis

POTTSVILLE, PA — Local chambers of commerce across Pennsylvania have issued a plea to state lawmakers to address the ongoing child care crisis. In a letter signed by more than 50 chambers and economic development agencies, they called for state investments to help child care providers recruit and retain their teachers.

Addressing the labor shortage

The letter emphasizes the importance of alleviating the shortage of child care workers. Retaining teachers allows child care centers to stay open or reopen, increasing availability for families who need them to stay in the workforce. This, in turn, contributes to Pennsylvania's overall economy.

Robert S. Carl Jr., president and CEO of the Schuylkill County Chamber of Commerce, spoke at a press conference at the state Capitol on June 11. He emphasized that low wages in the child care industry are leading to a historic teacher shortage that is affecting employers in various sectors across the state.

“We have been working with Schuylkill County child care providers for a year and have seen firsthand how difficult it is for them to retain their teachers,” Carl said. “Low wages are the reason for this teacher shortage. Providers know they have to pay more, especially when unskilled workers are making $20 or more an hour. But they also know their parents can't afford it.”

Economic impact

A new report from the nonprofit ReadyNation surveyed more than 300 working mothers in Pennsylvania. The report estimates that the annual economic cost of gaps in the state's child care system is $2.4 billion in lost productivity and tax revenue.

The report emphasized that the majority of child care responsibilities fall on mothers. As a result, job interruptions, career obstacles, and financial burdens caused by inadequate child care impact working mothers more than all working parents. The total annual economic cost to mothers and fathers struggling with child care gaps in Pennsylvania is estimated at $6.65 billion.

Learning from other countries

The letter from local chamber leaders points out that at least 18 states are investing directly in strategies to recruit and retain child care teachers. These efforts are aimed at addressing teacher shortages and ensuring that child care supply meets the demand of working families.

Tackling the childcare crisis

Addressing the childcare crisis is critical for several reasons. Quality childcare allows parents to stay in the workforce, which increases economic productivity and stability. It also ensures that children receive appropriate early education, which has long-term positive effects on their development.

The current shortage of childcare workers is causing many facilities to close or have long waiting lists. This situation means that families are struggling to find reliable care, forcing some parents, often mothers, to reduce their working hours or give up work altogether. This impacts not only individual families, but also the wider economy, as shown by the estimated significant costs in lost earnings and productivity.

Investing in childcare: strengthening families and economies

By investing in child care, Pennsylvania can mitigate these economic losses and support working families. Effective child care recruitment and retention strategies are essential to maintaining and expanding the availability of child care services.

The Chambers of Commerce letter is a call to action for state lawmakers. Addressing the child care crisis requires immediate and sustained investments to ensure families have access to the care they need, which in turn supports the overall economy and community well-being.

In summary, the message from the Pennsylvania Chambers of Commerce is clear: solving the child care crisis is not just about supporting parents, it is also about fostering a thriving and productive economy.

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Anna Harden

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