April 24, 2023 Westmoreland County Chamber Hosts Summit to Address Child Care Crisis Area lawmakers, child care providers, and members of the business community met at Westmoreland County Community College on Thursday, April 20 to discuss concerns about a historic staffing shortage within the child care sector and its impact on the economy and working families. About the Summit Entitled, “Supporting Our Workforce: Child Care in Westmoreland County,” the event was organized by Start Strong PA and the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with: Workforce Investment Board: Westmoreland & Fayette Counties, Westmoreland Community Action, Trying Together, Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, and ReadyNation Council for a Strong America. It featured several speakers, including Pennsylvania State Representatives George Dunbar and Eric Davanzo, General Manager of Live! Casino Pittsburgh Sean Sullivan, Queens College Economist Dr. Clive Belfield, Executive Director of Trying Together Cara Ciminillo, and CEO of the Greensburg YMCA Suzanne Printz, all of whom detailed new research regarding the impacts of the child care crisis. Summit Highlights Sullivan noted impact that limited child care options has on the workforce, saying, “When parents don’t have reliable, affordable, and quality child care, their work suffers which has an impact for both the employee and employer.” Belfield, who conducted the research for the recent ReadyNation report which revealed that gaps in the Pennsylvania child care system cost employers and taxpayers about $6.65 billion annually, cited the report. He explained that 60% of parents surveyed reported being late for work, leaving work early, or missing full days of work due to child care problems. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they quit due to child care struggles. Ciminillo referenced a new Start Strong PA study showing the average child care teacher in Pennsylvania earns $12.43 per hour or less than $25,844 per year. “Our research shows that 50 percent of early learning educators say they do not plan to or are unsure of whether they will remain in their jobs in the next five years due to low wages,” Ciminillo said. Printz noted that child care providers can’t just raise teacher wages because families are already struggling to afford the costs of care. Participants referenced the dire impact that low wages are having on the availability of care and a recent Start Strong PA survey that revealed more than 3,600 open staff positions across the state, resulting in more than 1,500 closed classrooms with a combined waitlist of more than 35,000 children. Participants discussed a series of action steps for both policy makers and the private sector to better ensure affordable high-quality child care for Pennsylvania’s working families. Private sector actions included flexible working schedules, child care referrals, tuition assistance programs, dependent care flexible spending accounts, and even on-site care. For policy makers, participants stressed the urgent need for the Commonwealth to help implement and pay for a wage scale for child care teachers that will help providers better compete in the current labor market. Learn More To learn more, visit the the Start Strong PA website.