Child care woes cost Arizona’s economy $1.8 billion a year, states report

Presley Nassise explains the rules of a class exercise to children at Premier Children’s Center in Phoenix on Oct. 20, 2021. /Photo by Alberto Mariani / AZCIR

By Maria Polletta | Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting 

Instability in Arizona’s child care system is costing the state an estimated $1.8 billion in economic activity a year, according to a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation report, as gaps in care force parents to forgo professional and educational opportunities.

Though access to child care proved to be “a concern for nearly every working parent” surveyed, the report found inconsistent or unaffordable care was particularly likely to derail the advancement of women and lower-income earners, resulting in lasting financial blows to their households and Arizona’s economy at large.

The analysis comes as child care providers confront staffing shortages, volatile enrollment and a looming expiration date on federal aid that has, at least for now, prevented a sector-wide collapse. Families, meanwhile, are attempting to navigate an already damaged system while grappling with cyclical closures and reopenings, as advocates push for sweeping shifts in how elected officials prioritize and fund the sector.

“Before the COVID-19 public health crisis, access to affordable, quality child care was hard to come by for working parents trying to enter, re-enter, or stay in the workforce,” researchers wrote. “The pandemic exacerbated the existing issues in America’s child care system and created an impossible situation for parents, employers, and child care providers.”

The Chamber Foundation’s findings mirror recent reporting by AZCIR that highlighted the fragility of Arizona’s child care system after a decade of neglect at state leaders’ hands.

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