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May 31, 2023

Employer Summit to Be Held on June 15, 2023, to Discuss Local Child Care Challenges and Opportunities to Increase Capacity

Child care is essential for working families and employers alike. Not only does it significantly benefit working families and employers, high-quality child care positively impacts children and our economy in the long-term. A shortage of affordable, accessible child care has kept an estimated 15,000 people out of the workforce in our North Sound Region costing regional employers an estimated $338.2M annually.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Skagit County lost an estimated 22% of licensed child care capacity, with 20 child care sites closing. “During the pandemic, Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County (EDASC) conducted a survey of all Skagit businesses and asked what employers’ and employees’ greatest concerns were. Access to childcare ranked along with housing affordability as primary concerns of workers and, therefore of their employers,” said John Sternlicht, CEO of EDASC. “In enacting the Skagit County Economic Recovery Plan, the Commissioners directed EDASC to work with the Population Health Trust and other experts in the field to broaden access to quality affordable childcare for Skagit workers. This is a huge workforce attraction and retention tool, which speaks to the number one concern of Skagit businesses: workforce.”

To increase capacity of child care in the county, Skagit County recently awarded American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to Opportunity Council’s Center for Retention and Expansion of Child Care (C-RECC). Funding will also support retention of existing providers by offering infant and early childhood mental health consultation. A Skagit-based consultant will work with child care providers to promote children’s optimal social and emotional development and to prevent, identify, and reduce the impact of mental health challenges for children and families. 

To expand child care capacity, C-RECC will provide technical assistance and $10,000 in start-up funding support to launch at least 10 new licensed family home child care programs. The goal for this expansion is to provide child care access for an additional 120 children across the County, prioritizing providers serving families who have been most negatively impacted by the pandemic and have the hardest time accessing care. The Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship has been partnering with C-RECC to help recruit prospective child care providers providing information sessions and financial incentives.

Funding will also provide capacity for an additional 40 children through the development of one or more employer-based on-site child care centers. On-site child care can improve workforce recruitment, retention, and productivity. It can also strengthen family health and well-being, support healthy parent-child relationships, and decrease parental anxiety. Skagit employers may be eligible for up to $75,000 in start-up assistance to develop an on-site child care center.

On June 15, 2023, Skagit County’s Population Health Trust, EDASC, and the Opportunity Council are partnering to host an employer summit to discuss the effect of current child care challenges on our local economy and workforce. The summit is intended to inspire local employers to give deep consideration to how they can support their employee’s child care needs. A range of options will be presented and all local employers are encouraged to attend. For more information about the event or to register, visit https://www.skagit.org/events-and-workshops/p/event/24650/child-care-for-employers-options-for-workforce-retention-&-recruitment?t=42069.

These strategies are all tied to Skagit County’s COVID-Recovery plan, which includes goals around child care access and quality as well as economic and fiscal security.
To learn more about the symposium on June 15, 2023 or the strategies to increase capacity of child care in Skagit County, please contact Jennifer Sass-Walton, Skagit County Public Health Prevention and Community Health Manager at (360) 416-1529 or jennis@co.skagit.wa.us.