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Report: Affordable Childcare Crisis Could Cost NC Billions

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Fewer than 1 in 10 North Carolina families receive any type of subsidized childcare from their employer, according to the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. (Adobe Stock)
Fewer than 1 in 10 North Carolina families receive any type of subsidized childcare from their employer, according to the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. (Adobe Stock)
December 21, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Fewer than 1 in 3 parents of young children has access to quality, affordable childcare during the pandemic, according to a new report. The survey of more than 800 North Carolina families found childcare is least accessible in rural counties and in Black, Brown and Indigenous communities.

Muffy Grant, executive director at the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation, said before COVID-19, inadequate childcare cost businesses and taxpayers around $2.4 billion in lost revenue. That amount has already jumped to $2.9 billion, and Grant believes it's likely to skyrocket as the public health crisis continues.

"So, what we have here is a very strong economic case for investments in accessible, affordable, high-quality, flexible, culturally competent childcare," Grant said.

In the survey, 55% of households reported at least one adult having lost a job, been furloughed or having reduced pay or hours due to COVID-19. More than 70% have had difficulty finding a satisfactory childcare arrangement, and about 10% said they couldn't find one at all.

Dr. Sherika Hill teaches in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University and is a researcher at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. She said entire regions of North Carolina lack programs proven to boost children's early well-being.

"We have engineered a lot of different policy, through subsidies and for families to get vouchers or discounted care for high-quality childcare centers. But we haven't gone far enough to make sure that those centers are located in communities of diverse groups," Hill said.

Of those working parents surveyed, 25% predicted their child care will disappear as the pandemic continues, and 30% predicted care will be unaffordable. And as more parents turn to makeshift childcare arrangements in order to keep working, Hill said the long-term effects on child development remain unknown.

"When you're in a disruptive childcare setting, where you're having to rely on different and piecemeal childcare arrangements, we have no idea what are going to be just the long-term mental consequences of that, in terms of relational secure attachment, and even in brain structure and development," she said.

She added women of color more frequently report their childcare provider is no longer open, or they can't afford one because of reduced income. For rural families, only 15% are currently relying on formal childcare, down from 44% pre-pandemic.

Disclosure: North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Livable Wages/Working Families, Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC