Business leaders: Illinois must address 'child care crisis'
Area business leaders are calling on Illinois policymakers to improve access to child care after a new report shows a lack of infant and toddler care is costing the state economy more than $2 billion a year.
The report from ReadyNation -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan network of business executives -- found that working parents with children ages 3 and younger often face difficulties finding affordable, high-quality child care.
As a result, working parents are losing an estimated $1.6 billion annually because of diminished earnings and the cost of finding alternative care for their kids during work hours, according to the report.
Businesses, meanwhile, are losing an estimated $559 million a year due to reduced productivity and the cost of rehiring and covering for absent employees. In addition, the report estimates that $294 million in federal tax revenue is lost.
"Clearly, the child care crisis is a significant drain on our economy," said Jessica Linder Gallo, president and CEO of the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce. "But the good news is we know ways to fix it. We need to do them."
She was among a group of ReadyNation members who gathered Thursday at the Aurora Early Learning Center for a news conference announcing the release of the report entitled "Strengthen Child Care, Grow Illinois' Economy."
Paula Schmidt, president of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, says a majority of the businesses in Geneva are small to medium size, including mom-and-pop retail stores and locally owned restaurants.
"You're looking at service industries that usually have under 10 employees," Schmidt said. "So it's important to these businesses that their employees are at work and engaged."
She said finding high-quality and affordable child care "is the utmost importance to many of our employees and the employers that are in Geneva and the whole area here."
Illinois historically has taken a number of positive steps for working families in need of child care and "for employers who are in need of a stable workforce," according to Schmidt.
"We've shown we could enact good policies and practices here in Illinois," Schmidt said. "So we need to continue on that path."
Sean Noble, Illinois state director for ReadyNation, said the group is hoping state lawmakers will continue to improve the quality of -- and working families' access to -- child care and early learning programs.
For example, ReadyNation says Illinois should further boost investments in prekindergarten, child care, and birth-to-3 services. Also, the state should strengthen the postsecondary education pipeline for training early childhood teachers and professionals, as well as boosting their compensation.
Another recommendation is for the state to focus on increasing the capacity of infant and toddler care.
Noble said ReadyNation wants policymakers to understand that these are important issues for children, their parents, the parents' employers and the economy.
"It's clear that our economy depends upon a stable, productive workforce," Noble said. "And a well-functioning workforce hinges in large part on the strength of early care and education in Illinois."