Business owner: Economic recovery won't happen without child care
As a business owner and a mother, the pandemic has been challenging for both my business and my family. Last year I had a bustling storefront in Oregon City, but when the pandemic hit and then my partner was diagnosed with cancer, I was forced to pivot, closing my brick-and-mortar location and relying strictly on online sales.
I loved having my vintage store in downtown Oregon City. There really is something special about being a part of a city's Main Street. But as we continue toward economic recovery, my ability to reopen a physical storefront remains in question because of a lack of access to affordable and quality child care.
In talking with other business owners and women in the work force, I know I am not the only one struggling. Closed schools and child care facilities have forced hundreds of thousands of women out of the work force.
The impact is staggering: In less than one year, women nationally have lost more than three decades of progress in labor force participation and more than two decades in pay equity.
A broken system that was only made worse by COVID-19 now threatens Oregon's economic recovery. It's pretty simple: We can reopen businesses and try to kickstart our economy, but nothing is going to work if parents like me can't find or afford child care.
Without child care, parents called back to work (especially in sectors dominated by women) will be stuck at home. Child care providers are key to the success of any attempt to restart business as usual. In fact, child care is the work that makes all other work possible.
There are so many barriers to starting or expanding a business, especially for women and people of color. Public investment in child care would mean greater stability for small businesses and their employees. Access to stable, quality, affordable child care improves employee morale, reduces absenteeism and increases business productivity. It creates a more stable work force, reducing recruiting, training and turnover costs. Additionally, research shows that investing in caregiving systems produces twice as many jobs per dollar invested than physical infrastructure investment.
I feel encouraged by all the talk of a transformational investment in child care in Washington, D.C., but I hope that our state lawmakers will not miss a golden opportunity to reform and invest in child care this legislative session by passing Oregon House Bill 3073.
This bill will improve access and services for families and set our state on a better path to addressing our child care crisis by realigning and reforming our early learning systems and child care programs to better serve parents, child care providers and children.
Political leaders who care about small businesses, our employees and the communities we serve should support HB 3073 and ensure its passage this session.
Iris Hodge, a mother and owner of Oregon City vintage shop Naive Melody, is a board member of the Main Street Alliance of Oregon, an advocacy group that works to provide small businesses a voice on public policy issues.
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