Child care issues cost Missouri economy $1.35 billion annually

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Among Missouri parents surveyed, 30% reported they have limited their working hours or stopped altogether because of unreliable child care.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce said childcare issues pose a $1.35 billion hit to the state economy every year.

Robin Phillips, CEO of Child Care Aware of Missouri, said in addition to higher operating costs for food, rent, and utilities, it is difficult for childcare providers to pay their staff livable wages, despite getting some federal help. “There are great and significant investments happening, and we still have a lot of work to do,” Phillips explained. “Because two years, three years of federal relief money doesn’t fix 40-plus years of fragmentation.”

Childcare Aware found the median wage for childcare educators in Missouri has increased to $17.50 an hour this year, up from just over $10 in 2017.

Missouri ranks 28th overall for child well-being, according to the most recent Kids Count data. The report showed that “child care deserts” have almost doubled since before the pandemic. Inaccessible — and often unaffordable — child care pushes parents to the financial breaking point.

Tracy Greever-Rice, Kids Count program director for the Missouri Family and Community Trust, said many areas need good short-term and long-term solutions. “Attentiveness to these issues will make a big difference,” Greever-Rice contended. “And prevention is not just good for individuals, but also more efficient and less expensive of a way to do public policy.”

On average, Missourians pay $8,900 a year for center-based care for a toddler, which equates to around 22% of a single mother’s income, and 7% for a married couple.