Child Care Access, Educator Wages, and Economic Recovery in Larimer County

February 9, 2022

Christina N. Taylor, MPH – CEO, Early Childhood Council of Larimer County

Child care continues to be a classic market failure. Early educators (often called child care providers) make an average of $13-$15 an hour. The poverty rate for early educators in Colorado is 15.1 percent! (For more information on educator salaries and the impact, read more here) The reason is rooted in the child care sector as a whole. Revenue in a child care program primarily comes in one form: parent fees and tuition. The amount a family pays, per child, for early care and education supports the operating costs of a child care program. The only way to raise revenue is to increase family tuition rates. If programs were to raise tuition to raise the rates of pay for their educators, families would suffer. The Center for American Progress, a bipartisan policy institute, estimates that if child care centers were to raise the tuition rate to afford to pay a living wage for their educators, they would need to increase the rates by a whopping 42%. This is far from sustainable for the average American family, who already pays between $14-$20k annually in child care costs. This market failure impacts more than just families and early educators.

The Impact on Businesses

The failure of the childcare sector impacts our economy and business’ bottom line in a big way and COVID has exacerbated that to the extreme. According to a survey on COVID impacts conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce in 2020, 79% of parents in the US report adverse impacts on their efforts or commitments at work due to childcare problems; 50% of the employees who have not yet returned to the workforce during the pandemic cite childcare as their primary reason. More than 45,000 Colorado parents are currently making career sacrifices due to issues with childcare access. According to the Council for a Strong America, in Larimer County alone, there is an estimated $99M in lost earnings, productivity and revenue annually. These are not small numbers.

What Can Businesses and Employers Do?

There are myriad ways businesses can make a lasting impact on child care access locally. Employers’ quick wins include increasing family-friendly business practices like flexible scheduling and working parent support programs. Businesses can make internal investments to provide backup childcare services for their employees, such as that offered by the City of Fort Collins to City employees. Employers can also consider childcare vouchers and subsidies as part of their overall benefits packages. On a broader scale, employers and business leaders can advocate for public policy change that supports increased child care access. In addition, local nonprofits that support child care access and advocacy are great options for corporate giving programs. The Early Childhood Council of Larimer County (ECCLC), alongside Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC), provided a workshop through the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce that you can access here, which provides valuable insight into this issue and strategies for employers. ECCLC also offers one-on-one consultations, free of charge, to interested businesses to support employer implementation of family-friendly practices and policies. Email for more information.

Here are a few more suggestions:

· Consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Early Childhood Council of Larimer County or one of these Larimer County nonprofit organizations dedicated to early childhood care and education.

· Get behind Larimer Thrive by Five and help ensure others understand the importance of investing in quality early childhood care and education. Learn more here.

· Support future efforts to bring sustainable funding for early childhood care and education to Larimer County. Email with your interests and contact information, and we’ll keep you posted about upcoming opportunities.

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