The leader of the state’s largest business group says improving access to child care will be a top priority during Missouri’s 2024 legislative session in Jefferson City.
Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Dan Mehan tells 939 the Eagle that providing child care is critically important to the workforce in Missouri and across the country.
“We saw during the pandemic that the child care industry took a major hit. A lot of people left the industry, people weren’t using it a lot as everything was shut down. And since coming back, the jobs and the opportunities have come back but the child care has not to the same extent that it was,” Mehan says.
He’s frustrated that bipartisan child care tax credit legislation proposed by Governor Mike Parson (R) died during the 2023 session’s final day, due to a Senate filibuster on unrelated issues. Mehan says supporters had the votes to pass the bill, but the bill never came up because of the filibuster. The bill from State Sen. Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City) and State Rep. Brenda Shields (R-St. Joseph) would have increased the capacity of child care providers and would have helped businesses offer child care benefits to support the retention and recruitment of employees.
Mr. Mehan tells 939 the Eagle that this issue is costing Missouri $1.3 billion per year.
“There’s a lot of people that have just not been able to get back to work because they can’t find child care providers for their kids. So people are making the choice between taking care of their kids and going back to work,” says Mehan.
The Chamber says that a recent report shows 28 percent of respondents said that they or someone in their household left a job or didn’t take a job due to problems with child care. Governor Parson’s office says the state only has enough capacity to serve 39 percent of children under six. They say 89 of Missouri’s 115 counties are considered a child care desert.
“That just completely underscores the need to fix this and the need to devote resources to it so that people can plug that gap,” Mehan says.
Missouri’s 2024 legislative session begins on January 3 in Jefferson City.