Alaska business experts say the ongoing child care crisis is hurting the state’s employers and the economy.
“This is a problem that is impacting their bottom line,” said Kati Capozzi, president of the Alaska Chamber, the state’s largest business advocacy group. “It’s impacting their ability to recruit and retain. It’s impacting the morale and the happiness of the employee.”
Capozzi is also a member of the task force started by Gov. Mike Dunleavy this year to address child care issues in the state. She presented a report from the chamber to the task force at its meeting Wednesday. The report took a look at how child care impacts the state’s businesses and economy. A major takeaway: the state is losing a lot of money annually because of a shortage of child care.
“We found that about $152 million are missing from the Alaskan economy because of people choosing not to be in the workforce, or working less,” Capozzi said.
She said roughly a third of Alaska workers with children at home reported missing work in the last year because of child care issues. She attributed the problem to several factors, including a lack of available child care spots for children in urban areas and child care deserts for more rural Alaskans.
“There is an income disparity, there’s no doubt about it,” Capozzi said. “But even the high-income earners are missing and choosing not to go to work.”
Capozzi said for workers in the child care field, it’s difficult to stay afloat, especially after the pandemic.
“A lot of child care centers decided to close down over the pandemic, and they just haven’t reopened,” Capozzi said. “It is a broken business model. The child care center facility, even at-home, is a broken business model. And so there’s a lot of people who are just choosing not to take on that opportunity.”
Capozzi said she’s excited that the task force is taking on a “true cost of care study” to better understand how much it costs to run a child care facility, and how to better support them in the future.