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Lack of Child Care Impacts Economy

Bend’s allure as a place to raise a family has created a growing need for childcare as these families move here, find jobs and settle in. The challenge is there isn’t enough child care options to go around, it’s often very expensive and sometimes out of reach for family budgets. Child care has become a significant factor in our economy, and to our workforce, impacting business and employees alike.

In 2018, the Bend Chamber of Commerce released results of two surveys on child care, one from employers and hiring managers and the other targeted to employees. The purpose of the survey was to better understand whether child care needs are impacting businesses to attract and retain employees, and how this affects the workforce. Survey respondents were from Bend and the region, and included 128 employers and hiring managers, and 333 employees.

Survey Shows Child Care as a Growing Issue for Businesses

Nearly 40 percent of employers who took the survey said that up to half of their workforce use child care services. Of the employees using child care, 96 percent tell them it is somewhat to very difficult to find and afford child care.

Employee child care challenges affect companies in a variety of ways:

  • 92 percent of employers say this impacts their business through reduced attendance
  • 57 percent stating productivity is reduced
  • 54 percent saying employee retention is directly affected

Impacts of Child Care at Home

The chamber survey indicated that nearly 75 percent of employees find it very difficult to find child care. It is also impacting household budgets and the cost of living. The breakdown of how big this impact is to families is as follows:

  • Over 20% of employee respondents say that childcare takes 25% of their income
  • 21% say it takes 50% or greater of their total income to pay for care

Additional survey comments conveyed the difficulties of finding child care and the impacts to family expenses, often stating that it is the second highest family expense behind paying mortgage or rent. Other comments described how salary, housing and discretionary spending was greatly impacted by child care costs.

Providers Have Their Own Challenges

Providers in the region say that the major contributors to the high cost of providing child care include requirements for ratios of infants, children and teachers that accumulate labor costs. Operational and facility costs are also steep in the industry where insurance and liability coverages/regulatory requirements, permit fees and facility rental and mortgage expenses further increase costs to providers.

Finding Solutions

Solving the child care issue is a challenge that will require a collaborative effort, with both public and private sectors. The answer will be in the form of silver buckshot, not a bullet. It will take philanthropy to offset costs, available land, streamlined and effective permitting, investments by developers, employers willing to offset employee costs and other influences. The Bend Chamber is part of a larger group of providers, employers and experts in the child care field who have formed a task force to form a strategy to help ease the issue.

The conversation continues on January 17 at City Club’s next forum where Bend Chamber CEO Katy Brooks will moderate a discussion between Kara Tachikawa of Inspire Early Learning Centers, Ryan Combellick of Hydroflask, and Carolyn Eagan with the City of Bend.

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