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Childcare issues now billion-dollar crush on Utah's economy

Posted at 5:48 PM, Jan 18, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report shows childcare issues result in an estimated $1.36 billion loss annually for Utah's economy.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF), in partnership with the Salt Lake Chamber, Utah Community Builders, United Way of Salt Lake, Cicero Group and Voices of Utah Children, worked in collaboration to survey 307 families with children under the age of six.

Their report found 48% of parents needed to make a significant adjustment to their school or work training due to childcare issues in the past 12 months.

Jacob Allen, who serves as Managing Director of Social Impact at Cicero Group, said they also found 48,000 parents left the workforce last year directly because of childcare issues, which impacts the state economy.

“Businesses lose out over a billion dollars every single year here in Utah because they have to find employees who have left replacements for employees who have left to care for their children because of loss in employee productivity, because employees are focused on taking care of childcare issues," said Allen.

He said a big reason they found to be a factor is cost of daycare services, something mother of five Michelle Hutchinson experiences firsthand.

"For my two kids for five days a week I’m paying $1500 a month. Which is actually a lot more affordable that some of those care centers," said Hutchinson, "So it’s kind of like is it even worth putting them in day care? How much money am I going to make versus the cost of daycare?"

Hutchinson said she looked for daycare options for months in Farmington before finding an in-home service that seemed reliable and affordable. Still, they didn't have space for all her kids forcing her to work from home.

"She was able to get space for my two, I asked her about a kindergartner and she was all full," said Hutchinson, "So I just kind of work from home and he’s with me and as soon as I drop him off I go out of the house to do what I need to do for my job. It works for me because of my job, but for those who work outside the home, I’m not quite sure what they’re doing for daycare."

Allen said he hopes the data they discovered will shine light on the issues Utah parents face when it comes to childcare.

"There’s no silver bullet here. We do believe, however, that policymakers, business leaders and nonprofit and other civic organizations can come together and on their own and then jointly work together to find solutions for parents who need it throughout the state," said Allen.

Michelle said she hopes to see more options for parents like centers that can pick up or drop off kindergartners from school.

"I cried two days ago dropping them off just because the little one was crying as I walked out the door and it’s hard. You know to go home and be like it’s worth it? You know we need the money to pay the bills and move forward and it is hard. So it’s an emotional process for parents and being able to have more options would be super helpful."