The Missoula Independent did a full cover story on this crisis two weeks ago called Home Alone: A single mother tries to navigate Missoula’s childcare crisis.
The story pretty much revolves around a single mother that struggles to find childcare for her infant daughter so that she can work.
Most of the time she has troubles with this, and I know she’s not alone.
Waiting lists for early-age childcare are about 2 years.
A big reason is that, as a nation, we’ve seen early-age childcare centers close at an alarming rate over the past decade.
It’s just too hard to stay in business, what with the number of employees required to care for children that young.
Businesses can’t remain profitable as they can’t charge that much for childcare in the first place.
They certainly can’t pay workers that much, so they have trouble retaining quality employees.
Parents are left with few options besides pay a lot of money for what’s available, have family or friends care for their kids, or just not work.
Many families can’t pay, as it costs an average of $9,000 a year for an infant and $8,000 a year for a 4-year-old.
Lots of families choose to have one parent not work, with the other parent holding a steady, benefits-providing job.
Perhaps when the child is 2-years-old or maybe 3 the mom – and sometimes dad – will go back to work as well.
From an economic standpoint, this is a serious blow to our economy.
Having that parent out of work means they’re not making money and not paying income taxes.
The family also has less money to spend in the economy overall because of the one income.
So what’s the answer?
Bullock tried to get Early Edge through last session, which would have provided free daycare to kids that are 4-years-old.
That’s a start, but it failed in the legislature and I don’t see anything similar passing in 2017.
As a result our local childcare centers suffer. We see this even with UM’s childcare center, which could have problems getting the $120,000 it needs to stay open.
So we need to go to the national level for the funding that will be required so businesses can offset the costs of having the necessary number of workers and paying them adequately.
Perhaps this will come in payroll tax deductions or just grants to participating early-age childcare centers.
We know what this can look like with the 2014 Childcare and Development Block Grant Act, which provided $5.3 billion to the states.
Something else has to be done, however, and it’s a good use of tax money…one that’s far better than wasting it on overseas wars.
Alas, Congress is continuously gridlocked and cannot get sensible ideas like this through anymore.
Then we get back to the damn presidential race.
Whichever of those two clowns wins, they’ll still face the problem of a divided Congress that, let’s face it, is controlled by rich corporations anyways via the campaign contribution system.
Do those rich corporations even want funding for early-age childcare at the national level?
What about disbursements to the states for that purpose?
I think not.
So we get back to the monumental problem of money in our elections, something that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
We have a childcare crisis as a result, one crisis of many that’s gripping this country.