Paul L. Dann: Better childcare yields economic growth

AS AN employer in New Hampshire, we find ourselves in challenging times. One of the major challenges facing businesses today is workforce availability. Vacant positions throughout the Granite State not only impact the individual business but also have a significant ripple effect on our state’s economy.

We all agree that a robust economy in New Hampshire is important, and that workforce challenges have a true adverse impact on our way of life, but what does that really mean when you’re “on the ground”? Well, for my nonprofit social service organization, NFI North, employee vacancies mean that we currently have a list of more than 100 families waiting to receive essential behavioral health services.

If there’s one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it is that mental health matters. When families are on a waitlist for critical services the challenges that confront them only become more daunting. It’s fair to say that nonprofits and for-profit organizations across the state are experiencing a serious work force crisis that in turn has true consequences on our community and our economy.

How are we to solve the current challenges presented by the workforce crisis? To be sure, any complex problem requires a dynamic, multi-pronged approach to ensure success, and the workforce crisis in New Hampshire is no exception. The good news is that there are a number of strategies that we can pursue right now that will help to address this significant issue. One of the strategies to help address New Hampshire’s workforce crisis is found in Senate Bill 237, the “Childcare for New Hampshire Families Act”.

All across our state, child care represents a significant issue facing workers. Without access to quality, affordable child care, individuals can’t afford to go back to work or stay in the workforce. Many simply don’t make enough to overcome the high cost, or limited availability of child care, meaning they have no choice but to stay home to care for their children.

SB 237 provides much needed resources to help support and build on the availability of child care here in New Hampshire. This legislation, which is currently under consideration in the state Senate, provides support that helps to attract and retain child care workers; it simplifies and expands access to safe and affordable child care; and it helps to enhance payment to child care providers.

Together, the pieces of this bill represent an important step forward, and once passed by the Legislature, SB 237 will help to make child care more available for New Hampshire’s working families. This will help families to access the child care they need to return to work or stay in the workforce, which benefits businesses like NFI North and the entire Granite State economy. A stronger workforce ultimately means a stronger New Hampshire.

Let’s all get behind this important bill and help us strengthen our child care system and move one step closer to addressing the workforce crisis that confronts the Granite State.

Paul L Dann, PhD, is executive director of NFI North, a multi service nonprofit organization serving children, youth and families across New Hampshire, and a core faculty at the University of New Hampshire, Carsey School of Public Policy Masters in Public Administration. He lives in Hopkinton.

Read the full article on The Union Leader

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