Report: Child-care crisis costs Tri-Cities $43 million a year

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(WJHL)- Child-care shortages are taking a $1.34 billion toll on Tennessee, and the Tri-Cities suffers $43 million in lost revenue and earnings per year, according to a recent report.

The report, published by Tennesseans for Quality Early Education, breaks down survey data collected in June and July from parents of children under the age of 5.

The survey, sponsored in part by local Chambers of Commerce and Ballad Health, showed inadequate childcare hindered productivity and career development for 98 percent of Tri-Cities parents.

“It’s been identified by the business community that childcare has become an issue for a lot of our workforce,” Bob Cantler, president of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, said.

According to the report, about two-thirds of children age six and younger in Tennessee and nearly 22 thousand in the Tri-Cities area have all available parents in the workforce. The report details the challenges facing families when it comes to childcare, including affordability and finding quality childcare.

“If you’re having to make a choice between affordable, quality childcare and going to work, obviously the baby comes first,” said Miles Burdine, president and CEO of Kingsport’s Chamber of Commerce.

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According to the Tennessee Department of Human Services, two northeast Tennessee counties are in childcare deserts – Greene and Hawkins Counties. That means that there are three times as many children in the county as there are childcare centers.

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Working toward a solution

The Tennessee Department of Human Services announced boosts to programs in order to help families afford childcare.

In March, the department announced that it would raise the weekly reimbursement rates for providers enrolled in the Child Care Certificate Program.

In July, the department announced a 15% bonus to child-care payment subsidy rates to counties deemed as child-care deserts.

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These programs are geared toward families with economic needs, teen parents, and families who are working or pursuing post-secondary education, according to press releases from the department.

The report says that fewer than 1 in 7 surveyors reported receiving financial support for childcare from their employer or from the Tennessee Child Care Payment Assistance Plan.

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It adds a potential solution would require” ingenuity and collaboration between the public and private sectors,” and that businesses should play a role in solving the issue.

The report says businesses should provide on-site childcare or consider helping employees pay for outside providers with pre-tax dollars.

“If the person is comfortable and satisfied and happy with their childcare situation it makes them a better employee,” Cantler said. “I think as a business community we need to figure out, ‘How do we address this?'”

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