By Jude Wood, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Chamber Board Member
South Lake Tahoe is experiencing a childcare crisis that is affecting families, businesses and the economy. The crisis is a combination of a lack of providers, high costs, limited locations and opening hours that don’t reflect our 24/7 leisure and tourism work hours. One childcare facility on the South Shore even has 110 children on their waitlist, and this isn’t just affecting the pre-school age. If an employee needs to work past 3pm in the afternoon then they need after-school care, and despite increasing membership by 210% in the past 5 years, the Boys and Girls Club had 70 children on its waitlist in the fall of 2019.
Access and cost are particularly acute for infant care. Currently only three programs serving infants in south Tahoe offer care during non-traditional hours and two of them are seasonal- Heavenly and Wild Mountain. The average annual cost of full-time infant care in California is $15,300 and locally our facilities average around $50 a day for an infant; only decreasing to app. $40 a day for preschool age. And although 68% of our local families qualify for an infant subsidy, only 25% are currently receive one. Either because they have been unable to find childcare or theirs is not a subsidized facility.
The struggle for workers to find a childcare that fits their budget, schedule, and location can result in increased stress levels for employees with children, higher turnover in staff, and people not entering back into the workforce because it is not economically feasible to work and have a majority of paycheck go to childcare. School closures, parent-teacher conferences, school vacations, and sick children are an additional burden for staff those whose benefits do not include holidays, vacation, and paid leave. In communities like Tahoe with more seasonal employment, consistent and flexible childcare is key for employment.
One solution for these issues is to have a workplace childcare. Locally LTUSD have forged the path with infant, toddler and pre-school care for LTUSD staff and students at a significantly reduced cost. This forward thinking was born out of the difficulties attracting or retaining teachers with young children. Workplace childcare, or even a partnership for places at an existing child care provider, has huge advantages for both the employer and employee. Benefits include a rise in productivity (employees can remain at work instead of arriving late or leaving early to get child), lower turnover (employees more willing to return to work after maternity leave because guaranteed childcare), and a recruitment and retention tool. At a time when staffing is the number one issue for most businesses, retention of quality staff is paramount.
The El Dorado County Early Care & Education Planning Council is currently conducting two workforce surveys (one for both employers and employees) to gain a better understanding of how businesses are economically impacted by employees’ childcare struggles, as well as hearing from employees about how finding and maintaining reliable childcare has impacted them. The surveys were released in January 2020 and it is vital that members of the Tahoe Chamber participate so that policies and funding can be effectively utilized to address this important issue. Please complete the survey that is most appropriate for you and do your part in solving this crisis.