Over 50 business organizations, including the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, have collectively appealed to the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Josh Shapiro’s Administration to address the ongoing crisis in accessible and affordable childcare.

The signatories include chambers of commerce from across the state as well as the PA Economic Development Association. Their endorsement underscores the gravity of the situation and its implications on Pennsylvania’s economy and workforce.

“The need for affordable childcare is keeping a sector of our much-needed workforce home,” said Karen Groh, president/CEO of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“A big part of the issue is the inability to attract individuals to work at childcare centers,” said Groh. “According to a new Start Strong PA report, the average childcare teacher wage in Lebanon County is $14/hour and requires 2,500 hours of work in an approved child-related occupation to qualify to work.”

Groh said many facilities are shutting down classrooms or closing completely due to staff challenges, leaving many families in the lurch when it comes to childcare services.

Groh identified low wages as a key deterrent, causing a staffing crisis in childcare centers, which is then further passed onto families in the form of increased fees.

The joint effort was inspired by three local leaders: Laura Manion, president/CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry; Dan DeBone, president/CEO of the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce; and Trish McFarland, president of the Delaware County Chamber.

Manion, who has personally faced the challenges of securing childcare, stressed in a press release that this was a significant threat to Pennsylvania’s economy. Manion recently testified before the House Children & Youth Committee about the issues.

Similarly, McFarland confirmed the reality of these struggles from her experience as a working mother and the consistent feedback from chamber members.

“As a working mother of three children, I can attest firsthand that this struggle is real,” said McFarland in the release. “We have worked hand-in-hand with our members in the childcare industry on bringing awareness to their various hardships.”

DeBone emphasized the critical role of the childcare industry in stabilizing the economy, with the need for recruitment and retention measures being paramount.

“In order to solve the larger workforce issue, which in part is due to a lack of access to childcare, we need to make sure the childcare industry can recruit and retain staff,” said DeBone in the release. “Stabilizing the industry will allow us to be successful in rolling out a variety of access solutions such as the tax credits.”

The collective has proposed several potential solutions to elected officials, including employer tax credits for providing employee childcare, expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Enhancement tax credit, and retention and recruitment incentives for childcare workers.

The joint letter said the scarcity of affordable childcare is costing the state a staggering $3.47 billion respectively each year.

“We hope both parties in the House and Senate see the momentous support of our proposed solutions,” said Manion. “To have 55 chamber executives from every region in the Commonwealth sign on in support of this initiative – we believe we are sending a clear message.”

“It is time to make a commitment to future generations that will lay the foundation for a more prosperous economy.”

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