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Lack of child care keeping Alaska families out of the workforce

Parents of young children in Alaska are facing significant roadblocks when it comes to finding affordable and reliable childcare.
Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 8:24 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Parents of young children in Alaska are facing significant roadblocks when it comes to finding affordable and reliable child care. According to a new report, 61% of Alaskans are living in what is called a “child care desert.”

This is limiting workers’ ability to not only find work, but keep it long term.

“You can hear it, through the conversations, the details that they give,” said Jackie Yarian with Early Learning for Everyone about the daily calls she receives from parents. “People are really looking to work right now and of course if they have children they aren’t going to be able to if they don’t have a great place for them to go.”

For her, it is painful to have to turn down parents looking for child care as the facility she currently works for has a waiting list that can be a year long or more. To add to the frustration, the daycare has the physical capability to service 86 children, but due to a lack of staffing there’s only 60 kids each day being taken care of.

Kati Capozzi, president and CEO of the Alaska Chamber, said two large issues are lack of accessibility and affordability for families, and the inability to get child care during the pandemic.

“So many child care centers have no workers or they’ve had to close outright due to mandates or confusing guidance,” she said. “So just kind of a double whammy that we’re seeing with access to child care.”

Capozzi said increased access to testing and more reliable guidance can help when it comes to the shortage of child care workers.

According to a report by the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation, insufficient child care results in an estimated $165 million loss each year for Alaska’s economy. That translates to an estimated $13 million loss in annual tax revenue and a $152 million cost to businesses due to employee turnover costs and absences.

If child care issues are not fixed it could be devastating for the long term effects on the Alaskan economy. Professional families will not be able to stay in Alaska and ultimately will stop innovation, opportunity, and expansion.

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