More than three-quarters of Alaska parents reported missing work because of child care issues, a leading business advocate told the group advising Gov. Mike Dunleavy on child care policy. Kati Capozzi, the Alaska Chamber’s executive director, said that addressing the issue is a priority for employers.
She told the state’s Child Care Task Force on Wednesday that her organization learned through the COVID-19 pandemic that the lack of child care was a huge problem for businesses in the state.
“Child care is something all political parties and all regions have overwhelming agreement on,” she said. “We are really proud to have this position and it’s allowed the Alaska chamber to go forth and advocate on behalf of decreasing barriers to child care and increasing availability and access.”
The chamber, Alaska’s largest business advocacy group, made child care a policy priority for this year. The organization’s 700 members voted to add child care to its list of advocacy issues last fall.
The chamber’s official stance is that it will “support decreases of barriers to entry for childcare” and “increase availability of and access to childcare in Alaska.”
“The Alaska Chamber encourages the Alaska Legislature, governor and congressional delegation to work with the business community to identify fiscally responsible reforms to the childcare system,” the chamber’s position reads.
Dunleavy has charged the task force with developing recommendations by the end of December for a plan to make child care in the state more available and affordable. The task force has been gathering testimony from key stakeholders.
Capozzi said predictable child care enables a stable workforce and strengthens the economy. But she said according to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Alaska’s workforce is currently weakened by lack of access to affordable, local child care.
It found that a lack of child care is costing Alaskan employers $152 million a year.
One piece of the study that stood out to Capozzi is that even a third of families that make more than $100,000 annually struggle with child care.
She said the chamber took a public opinion survey in April of this year and asked participants if lack of access to child care or inability to pay for child care had caused them or a family member to choose not to participate in the workforce. More than a third said yes.
“The business community isn’t operating in a silo thinking, ‘Oh, this is just my one problem that I have.’ This is really a statewide problem, something we all need to be paying attention to. And we all need to be kind of chipping in to be part of the solution,” Capozzi said.
Lack of access to affordable child care is a problem that parts of the business community are trying to solve. Capozzi said just this week she spoke with a member business that’s exploring the financial feasibility of on-site child care.
She said several others are also interested.
“What they do have is capital and interest in solving the problem,” she said. “But what they don’t have is the know-how on how to do a child care facility.”
Originally published by the Alaska Beacon, an independent, nonpartisan news organization that covers Alaska state government.