Employers across Nevada feel the strain of employees facing child care issues. Candidates are unable to accept a job, employees miss work and new parents leave the workforce following the addition of a child. According to a Council for a Strong America report, the United States economy is estimated to lose $122 billion annually due to lack of child care for children under the age of 3. For employers, this equates to $23 billion in annual losses to workforce productivity.
The child care crisis disproportionately impacts working mothers. Women make up the majority of the early care and education workforce, which is still below pre-COVID-19 levels compared to the private sector, according to the Center for American Progress. This impacts child care owners’ ability to recruit and retain staff, decreasing the total supply of child care slots. It’s more apparent in Clark County with three times as many children as licensed child care slots.
During the pandemic, decreased child care capacity combined with working parent quit rates highlighted the sector’s importance to our workforce and economy. Without affordable and accessible child care options, Nevada employees, especially mothers, cannot work.
Between May 2020 and August 2021, Congress authorized three historic stimulus packages supporting the child care industry: Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) and American Rescue Plan (ARP). These allowed the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with statewide child and family-serving organizations to improve systems and support child care providers in achieving high-quality, affordable and equitable access for families. The majority of funds directed to child care businesses or working parents supported Clark County families.
Some ways Nevada prioritized federal funds for child care providers, families and employers include:
• Creation of a one-stop resource for all child care funding
CARES Act — May 2020 — $33 million
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies for providers
• Subsidies based on enrollment instead of attendance
• Emergency grants to providers to maintain operations during the pandemic
CRRSA — 2021 — $93 million
• Subsidies based on enrollment instead of attendance •
• Subsidy eligibility expansion for front-line workers
• Provider operational grants to reopen and sustain capacity
ARP — 2021 — $365 million
• Providers: Operational grants to sustain business, telehealth insurance (for providers without benefits), training and background fee support, workforce retention stipends and business financing and consultation.
• Families: Expanded child care subsidy eligibility, copayments waived for subsidized care, new leadership council for parent advocacy skills and decision-making and equitable access to non-traditional hours, infant-toddler and children with special health care needs slots.
• Community Health Workers in Early – Childhood Education (CHW-ECE) established to improve health outcomes and connect to community-based services.
The role of Las Vegas employers
There are many ways local employers can support working parents. A 2023 McKinsey & Company report demonstrated that flexible work has become a top three employee benefit for both men and women, allowing them more control over their schedules, promoting workforce participation. Similarly, supplementing child care costs is an important employee retention incentive.
The average parent living in Las Vegas with an infant child in center-based care can expect to pay more than $14,139 per year. Employers can alleviate the burden through financial assistance stipends or participation in dependent care flexible spending accounts. By intentionally designing a family-friendly benefit package and organizational policies, employers will experience a return on investment through lower turnover and higher engagement.
Businesses also can support working families by offering paid family and medical leave increasing productivity, profitability and performance and decreasing turnover; implementing children-at-work policies boosting productivity, recruitment and retention; and providing on-site child care improving employee retention and performance and reducing absenteeism.
For supporting employees’ child care needs, businesses can utilize the 45F Federal Tax Credit, allowing them to claim 25 percent of qualifying expenses and a 10 percent credit — $150,000 annual cap — for costs associated with contracting with a third-party referral service.
For employers ready to get started, potential next step resources are:
• Tip sheets, sample policy language and business toolkits
• Free self-assessment to determine how your business stacks up
• Free consultation
The injection of federal relief funding into the Nevada early care and education sector has worked. Operational stipends allowed child care owners to maintain their businesses and pay staff. Start-up funding for new businesses has proven effective in reversing the number of child care facilities permanently closing their doors; and in 2023, the number of slots available statewide is higher than pre-pandemic data.
However, the sustainability of programs and initiatives supporting working families and child care providers is in jeopardy. Federal stimulus support ends Sept. 30, 2024. As a business leader, your voice is powerful! Show your support for long-term investments by advocating for increases to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCBDG), the largest federal source of continued child care funding. For a quick, ready-made email to your representative, visit childcareaware.org/email-your-lawmaker-2023.
Brianna Cambra is the regional quality director for The Children’s Cabinet.