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EDITORIAL: Lack of child care options keeping women out of the workforce

Enid News & Eagle - 10/15/2022

Oct. 15—There are always a plethora of workplace issues that need improvement in our state, but one topic keeps coming up time and time again — the need for more child care resources in our communities.

Local business leaders met with representatives of the State Chamber's Employers in Action program this past week to discuss issues employers face. Although we have experienced low unemployment in our state, we still have too many people who could work but are not participating in the workforce. Many of them are women who have no day care options.

This is an issue that is only going to get worse, particularly with the state's restrictions on abortion. A potential outcome is that more children will be born into vulnerable circumstances, and their mothers will need to be able to make a living and provide for their families.

Many of these women are shift workers who don't work a typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. They will need child care very early in the mornings or late in the evenings.

Krista Roberts, St. Mary's Regional Medical Center chief executive officer, said for her hospital the "6 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift work causes problems for day care with our employees."

But it's not just shift workers effected. Many professional women also are electing to stay home instead of contributing their talents because of the lack of affordable and accessible child care.

As with everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic squeezed many child care services out of business.

Some solutions that were brought up during the pandemic, but could still be helpful, include:

—Consider subsidies for child care centers or subsidies for parents who need child care in order to participate in the workforce.

—Ensure child care providers have access to a variety of benefits, such as direct grants, zero-interest loans, mortgage forbearance, deferral of rents and support for utilities and insurance for a minimum of three months.

—Provide assistance in securing SBA loans and ensure all workers have access to paid family leave and paid sick leave.

Our child care system in Oklahoma is leaving too many families too few options to be a part of the labor force and to lift our state's poverty rankings. Oklahoma has an obligation to work toward solutions to keep child care programs economically stable and feasible for families.

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