As companies offer child care, accessibility remains tough

The federal government has told companies if they want funds from the CHIPS Act, they have to provide child care for their employees.
Parent and child walking into daycare.
Posted at 3:07 PM, Mar 13, 2023

It is no secret for parents that one of the most costly expenses is child care. Access to child care can also be a barrier to work. 

Recently the Commerce Department announced that companies receiving more than $150 million through the CHIPS and Science Act would be required to submit a plan to provide child care for facility and construction workers. The plan must be deemed “affordable, accessible, reliable and high quality,” the Commerce Department said. 

While affordability has long been an issue, accessibility has become even more challenging. Wendy Wagner Robeson, a senior research scientist for Wellesley Centers for Women, said families often struggle to find child care that meets their needs. She noted that some facilities often have waiting lists. She also said if employees have non-traditional hours, it can be challenging to find care as it is generally not profitable for centers to open for those hours. 

“There's so much involved in child care, and it's not like buying a car. You have to have a good match with your provider. You have to be like, you're going to trust this person with your child, whether over 10 hours or eight hours a day,” she said. “You've got to be, you know, have a good feeling like, yes, this person is going to be kind and warm and loving, and also keep my child’s development in mind, help my child grow, help get my child ready for school. There's so many things that you have to look for. It's not, you know, it's really hard to find child care. Very hard.”

Robeson said access to child care has become a "crisis" since the pandemic. She said programs like the stipulation in the CHIPS and Science Act can help, but the benefits need to be extended to all families. 

"If we want to get the numbers where we had them before the pandemic, you got to have child care. It's got to be high quality. It has to be accessible. It has to be affordable for all families," she said.

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She said access to child care remains a significant obstacle, especially for women, joining the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workforce participation among men over age 20 is 70.2%. For women over 20, it’s 58.5%. 

The Biden administration has argued that having companies provide child care would bolster women in the workplace. 

“We need chip manufacturers, construction companies and unions to work with us toward the national goal of hiring and training another million women in construction over the next decade to meet the demand not just in chips, but other industries and infrastructure projects as well,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a recent speech. 

Robeson hopes that more companies see the benefit of providing child care for workers, even if it’s not part of a government incentive. 

“I think it's something that is gonna be worthwhile in the end for the business,” Robeson said. “I mean, so many businesses, employers say that if they can keep their staff, keep their employees, and provide benefits, that is a win-win for everybody.”

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Tootris, a company that connects parents with providers to secure day care options, had a six-fold increase in partnerships this year compared to 2022. It has been working with companies that help subsidize child care. 

Tootris spokesperson Jeff McAdam said one challenge is that it can be challenging for parents to find available providers. McAdam noted that the Tootris platform can help sort through providers who might be a better fit for families and their work hours.

“If you don't have parents with reliable child care, then you don't have a reliable team, whenever reliable staff is no fault of their own,” McAdam said. “So by finding a way to help them, not only are you helping them, you're helping yourself as a company.”