JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – If you’re a parent, you probably know the pandemic has affected the childcare industry, making it harder to find someone to watch your child.

According to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, more than 30% of Missouri parents have left a job or not taken a job in the last year because of childcare. The Show Me State is missing out on more than $1.3 billion for Missouri’s economy due to childcare issues.

In a study done by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the greatest need right for a parent is to find someone to watch their child when he or she is a toddler or infant but because it’s so hard to find, parents are leaving their jobs.

“At a fast rate, women have dropped out of the workforce including in Missouri,” President and CEO of United Womens’ Empowerment (United WE) Wendy Doyle said.

Those women are leaving the workforce because there is no one to watch their child.

“There were so many childcare facilities that closed during the pandemic and made the decision from an affordability perspective it doesn’t make sense to reopen,” Doyle said

United WE is a research evidence-based organization headquartered in Kansas City. In a recent student done by the organizations, besides supply and demand, finding affordable childcare is also tough for families.

“Infant care in the state of Missouri is equivalent to in-state college tuition,” Doyle said. “Childcare costs exceed what mortgage payments are for families.”

Doyle said she knows of parents in Missouri driving 80 miles round trip for daycare.

“We can get women back to work, they are interested in coming back to work, and we can grow Missouri’s economy by 15%,” Doyle said.

She said the pandemic put added stress on moms as they stayed home with their kids and became their teachers.

“Being the homeschool teacher that really was the tipping point for women to say, something gives, and it’s going to be my career right now because my children need me the most,” Doyle said.

Lieut. Gov. Mike Kehoe joined United WE’s press conference Wednesday releasing their findings in the study. He said he wasn’t surprised by the response.

“How do we get them [women] into a better spot so they can provide for their family,” Kehoe said. “They have the skills to do it, we just need to make sure we can help them with it.”

The study was made up of 20 task force members who held 11 town halls in 13 different regions in the state. More than 260 people participated in topics such as broadband, paid family leave, healthcare, childcare, eldercare, and entrepreneurship. Some of the findings were:

  • 57% of families say they pay more than $500 a month for childcare.
  • 93% experience childcare disruption during the pandemic
  • 73% of women currently are responsible for eldercare
  • 66% of women are interested in starting a business, of the 33% not interested, all listed “benefits” as the primary barrier

“Women feel the burden of being able to provide and care for their family whether that means staying in a position that may not be ideal but because they get benefits or for their family, they are making decisions,” Doyle said.

“This is not a partisan issue, this is an issue of taking our state’s resources and putting them to work,” Kehoe said.

As for the benefit it would bring to Missouri, Kehoe says changes need to be made to the state’s childcare industry.

“I think that’s news that not only policymakers should be excited about but obviously employers who are dying to find people to bring into their business,” Kehoe said.

Another problem for parents, the Chamber of Commerce said more than half of Missourians live in a childcare desert, meaning there’s limited or no access to childcare.

The next step is for the research done by United WE to be given to lawmakers in hopes of them filing legislation to help parents and the industry.