Kudos to Gov. Greg Gianforte for dedicating $31 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to increasing availability of child care for working parents. These funds will be directed to grants to increase capacity and hours of service for existing day care businesses.
The issue of child care is personal for us, as we are able to significantly subsidize our 2-year-old granddaughter's child care. Most Montana families are not so fortunate. According to the Montana Budget and Policy Center, both parents work in 60% of Montana families. A lack of stable day care means that parents must take time off from work or choose poor quality day care. A resulting loss of income compromises a family's ability to pay bills. And the economic fallout is significant; businesses lose up to $4.4 billion each year due to their employees’ child care issues.
The distinction between hard and soft infrastructure is silly — building roads and providing quality child care will both stimulate the economy. The argument that the market rather than taxpayers should address the child care problem doesn’t hold water when most businesses are paying $10-$12/hour.
The APRA funds for child care are a good start, but we need a more permanent solution to help Montana parents get back to work.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.