A proposed plan to help fix Missouri’s childcare access problem is on tap to make its way back to the state legislature in 2024. The legislature failed to pass a tax credit package this year for childcare providers, donors to daycare centers, and businesses who help to cover the childcare costs of their employees.

The state’s access problem involves a shortage of childcare workers and affordable childcare options for families – ultimately taking a toll on Missouri’s workforce needs. A U.S. Chamber Foundation report estimates that Missouri loses more than $1.3 billion annually as a result of childcare shortages.

“The childcare crisis, it’s a statewide economic issue that is hurting businesses’ ability to recruit and retain workers. This is not just an issue that working parents and young children should care about. Really, every single person in the state should care about this because it affects our overall economy,” said Kara Corches, with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ”

According to Corches, part of Missouri’s workforce crisis has to do with lack of access to childcare.

“When we look at how tight our labor market is, we have very low unemployment. We have countless number of unfilled jobs open,” she said. “We can’t afford to lose a single person who wants to work right now. And so, if it’s an issue like child care, we think there is a tangible solution to this. And this child care tax credit package is an incredibly important piece of that puzzle to addressing it. The affordability issue is a big problem and part of the affordability issue is also there’s just not enough providers. And so, of course, it’s supply and demand also. So, hopefully this (tax credit package) will increase the supply.”

Corches said addressing the state’s childcare access problem is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Ultimately a parent should have that decision,” she said. “If they want to stay at home, that’s great and that’s their opportunity and their right to choose to do that. But if we want more people in the workforce right now, let’s remove all the barriers to help them join the workforce.”

She said childcare should be considered critical infrastructure.

“When a business looks to move into an area, they look to see if there’s electricity, if there’s water. We also know those businesses are looking for childcare, because they’re not going to be able to expand and create more jobs if there’s not enough childcare so those employees can go to work,” said Corches.

State Rep. Brenda Shields, R-St. Joseph, and state Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, sponsored this year’s legislation. They were able to pass a state budget with about $160 million designated to help prekindergarten and childcare efforts. Roughly $82 million provides universal pre-k to low-income children and $78 million boosts childcare providers rates.

Prefiling bills for the 2024 session begins December 1.

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