DS Child Care Crisis Costs Workers, Employers and the Economy | Local

TenHaken said that while workforce issues are important, expanding childcare options is about improving the lives of future generations.

“This is our most important asset, it is our children that we are talking about,” he said. “What does it mean for a company to make sure that we invest to ensure that these children receive top quality care when they are not under their parents’ care? It says a lot about us as a society about how you invest in your children and youth, and it kind of tells you what your priorities are as a community and as a state.

Without new investments or programs to expand access to child care, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, Wimmer said.

The child care crisis has caught the attention of Governor Kristi Noem.

“For families struggling to make ends meet, daycare is the only way to make sure they can get food on the table,” Noem said in his budget speech on Dec. 7.

Noem proposes to use $ 100 million in federal funds to support existing state-registered child care centers and encourage new ones. She said part of the funding can also be used to encourage employers to open daycare centers for their employees and for scholarships to help students train in childcare fields.

“This will allow high quality child care centers to open and expand in the state and will also help existing registered facilities to remain open and continue to provide care,” Noem said.

In an email to News Watch, Department of Social Services Secretary Laurie Gill said $ 60 million of the governor’s proposed funding would initially go towards “stabilization grants” to help existing daycares when they are in need. apply for state registration. All funding for child care, which still requires legislative approval, would be a one-time expenditure of federal funds, Gill said.

Gill said South Dakota had seen 153 registered child care programs shut down since March 2020, the vast majority of small family providers, many home programs, although 105 new registered programs started during that time for a loss. net of 44 programs. Overall, the number of state-registered child care spaces in South Dakota for children in South Dakota has not declined significantly over the past year, from 49,094 in October 2020 to 48,985 in October 2021. .

However, since South Dakota does not require daycares with 12 or fewer children to register with the state, there is no way of knowing exactly how many small home daycares have closed during the year. pandemic. Some experts say that state registration of small providers is voluntary, many home providers choose not to enroll, and the number of child care spaces lost is likely much higher than what the records show. ‘State indicate.

As of December 2021, the state had 787 registered daycares; of of these, 364 were family daycares with one to 12 children, 47 were family group daycares with 13-20 children and 231 were daycares with 21 or more children. Only about one in six providers offer before or after school programs.

Wimmer said the Boys & Girls Club and other vendors still faced challenges hiring staff, but now it’s even more difficult.

Two years ago, the club was paying entry-level childcare workers about $ 10 an hour, which was competitive in the local market, she said. Over the past year, she has increased the starting wage to $ 14 an hour and even that can’t compete with many Sioux Falls employers, including fast food outlets or Walmart paying between $ 15 and $ 20. $ per hour.

“I didn’t make any progress last year trying to compete with for-profit companies,” she said.

Every time the club increases its employees’ salaries by a dollar an hour, it increases organizational expenses by about $ 200,000 per year, Wimmer said. Currently, the organization is also paying more for food, energy, and other costs that have increased due to recent inflation.

“In the last year, we’ve had $ 1 million in new spending by increasing wages, and we were already in deficit, so that money has to come from somewhere,” she said.

Janel Guse, principal of Madison Elementary School in Madison, has a relatively young teaching staff, many of them women, who struggle to find child care in the city of about 7,300 people. Currently, there are 10 registered daycares in Lake County, nine in Madison and only one major daycare, according to state data.

“We’re just coming into a global shortage, and Madison is a young and rejuvenating community,” said Guse. “It really has a big impact on families because we don’t have care in the center, so the availability of places for families is really limited. “

Guse said finding child care can be even more difficult for factory workers, nurses or others who do shift work outside of the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. Also, as more people work later in life, fewer parents are able to provide child care to family members who need it, she said.

“If we want our parents to be able to be productive at work, we need a high quality child care center that has consistent schedules and is open while they work,” she said.

If daycares are to charge more for their services to stay in business, the community as a whole must find ways to support parents who need help paying higher rates, Guse said.

“The cost of not having high quality child care far outweighs that cost,” she said. “At some point you have to decide, ‘How much value do you place on the importance of the life of a child and a family? “”

Eric Sinclair is the CEO of Montgomery’s, a Madison-based furniture store chain with approximately 130 employees at multiple locations in eastern South Dakota. He is also president-elect of the Lake Area Improvement Corp.

“It’s a huge problem for the Madison area and for Montgomery because we employ a lot of young women,” Sinclair said. “These mothers have to make a crucial decision: to enter the workforce or to stay at home with their children. “

Sinclair is concerned that the lack of child care facilities could slow growth in Lake County, which is experiencing constant economic and population expansion.

“We are trying to get people to come for the jobs that we have, but we are running out of housing, and if we can get families to move here, then we don’t have the bandwidth in daycares,” said Sinclair. . “The more you focus on it, the more complicated it gets, which is why so many communities our size have the same problem.”

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