On Tuesday, July 26th, Kentucky’s Early Childhood Task Force met for the second time. The focus of this meeting was to review the impact that child care has on Kentucky’s business community. Sandy Nott, the Vice President of Administration from Toyota’s Georgetown plant, and Twila Burdette, the Director of Rockcastle Hospital’s Child Development Center, both spoke about how having child care for their employees is an incentive to attract new talent to their businesses.
Ms. Nott spoke about how the Toyota Child Development Center’s non-traditional hours are a huge support to employees that must work second and third shift or on production Saturdays twice a month. Ms. Burdette explained that the cost of enrolling a child in her hospital’s child development center is based on the employee’s salary and is open from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM to accommodate employees that work 12-hour shifts. Both agreed that the goal of on-site child care is not to break even on cost, but to offer a service to the employees, similar to medical or dental benefits.
Charles Aull, with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and Kuna Tavalin, with the US Chamber of Commerce, also presented at the meeting to explain how consistent child care benefits the business community. Ms. Tavalin talked about what several states are doing in order to help employers make sure that child care is available to their employees, even if the company is too small to offer on-site child care. Kentucky was on her list of states making an effort to support child care for working families, due to recent passage of legislation such as House Bill 499.
Representative Samara Heavrin sponsored House Bill 499 during the 2022 legislative session, which was a Blueprint for Kentucky Children policy priority. This bill allows employers to provide a child care funding contribution that will be matched by the state to assist working parents and caregivers. The Division of Child Care has one year for planning and implementation of the statute, and the program will begin in July 2023.
The Department of Community Based Services gave a report on the initial planning phase of the new program, sharing that they are reaching out to other states, such as Michigan who is operating their Tri-Share program, to find out what ideas have been successful in implementation and which ideas should not be duplicated. This new program may be a way for small businesses to offer child care as an additional benefit to their employees, even if they can not offer on-site care.
At the same time that Kentucky is looking for ways for child care to partner with community businesses, there are also national efforts to look at the same type of partnerships. In June, the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Bipartisan Policy Center created an Early Childhood and Business Advisory Council. The council includes representatives from nine states, including Kentucky. Each state is represented by a member of the state Chamber of Commerce and an early childhood specialist. To represent Kentucky on the council, Charles Aull is joined by Sarah Vanover, from Kentucky Youth Advocates. The council will meet for approximately the next year in order to brainstorm ways to increase child care/business partnerships and share ideas with the other states. Along with attending the national council meetings, the state representatives are charged with setting up a state council of business leaders and early childhood specialists to advance efforts in their home states.
Previously, the business community viewed child care as the employee’s responsibility, but the competitive job market is now changing that perspective. Benefits are a key part of the employment package, and non-traditional benefits, like on-site or reduced-cost child care, are growing in popularity. Employees are also more likely to stay with an employer longer if they are utilizing employer-based child care and their children are thriving in that care. Even if an employer can’t reduce the cost of child care, simply securing a spot in a high-quality child care program can be a huge perk, especially as more than half of all Kentuckians live in a “child care desert.”
All businesses should consider what they can do to support employees with young children so that skilled workers do not leave the workforce due to child care concerns.