Chester County Chamber President Leads Call to Action to Address Childcare Crisis 

Laura Manion.
Image via Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry.
Laura Manion.

Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry President Laura Manion teamed up with the presidents of the Delaware and Westmoreland Chambers of Commerce to spearhead an effort leading to over 50 chamber organizations across the Commonwealth to sign-on to a joint letter to the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Shapiro Administration, imploring them to address the crisis surrounding accessible and affordable childcare. 

The overwhelming support of 55 Chambers across the state, in addition to the PA Economic Development Association, reflects the severity of the childcare crisis and its impact on the business community through both the workforce and the economy. This grassroots initiative has garnered the attention of larger chambers, including the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, to help drive the necessity for new legislation. 

“Prior to undertaking this effort, my knowledge surrounding the childcare shortage was not experiential, but rather, came from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s data, which cited the statistics of millions of women who were unable to return to work post-pandemic due to the lack of childcare,” said Manion. “It wasn’t until the birth of my son in 2022, coupled with hearing from employers in the CCCBI membership struggling to retain staff, that I saw my personal experience as just one piece of a multifaceted threat to Pennsylvania’s economy.” 

In January of 2023, Manion wrote an op-ed in a local newspaper on the issue, and the response was resoundingly positive, with hundreds of thousands of views. In March, she testified before the House Children & Youth Committee Informational Meeting on the Challenges with Childcare in Pennsylvania, alongside representatives from the Pennsylvania Chamber, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC), Pennsylvania Child Care Association (PCCA) and two providers. 

“The data is the driving force behind my efforts. The number of children in PA on waitlists is almost 40,000. The median cost of care, the dismal amount childcare workers are paid; it’s all staggering. Thankfully, I have a collection of community partners who are working on this issue directly and have provided invaluable resources and discussion topics. I reached out to other chamber presidents, who have been outspoken in previous calls for action, inspiring this coordinated effort,” she said. 

Trish McFarland, President of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce has faced similar obstacles as a mother and a leader. “As the sole Chamber of Commerce within Delaware County with over 1200 employers as members, we have been hearing from our membership about the lack of childcare and impact to the workforce,” McFarland said. “As a working mother of 3 children, I can attest first-hand that this struggle is real. We have worked together with our members in the childcare industry on bringing awareness to their various hardships.” 

Manion knew she had a partner in neighboring Delaware County with Trish McFarland but was surprised and elated when she came across an op-ed written by Dan DeBone in Westmoreland County. “Dan is from a different part of the state and in a different phase of his life. His interest and understanding of the issue made him an unexpected, yet valued ally.” 

DeBone has been just as vocal on the dependence of the economy on the childcare industry. In his article published in March of 2023, Addressing Pennsylvania’s Child-Care Crisis, DeBone highlighted the struggles of the Commonwealth’s labor force without reliable childcare and its subsequent effect on employers and the economy.

“In order to solve the larger workforce issue, which in part is due to a lack of access to childcare, we need to make sure the childcare industry can recruit and retain staff,” said DeBone, “Stabilizing the industry will allow us to be successful in rolling out a variety of access solutions such as the tax credits.” 

Collectively, the chambers have worked with their respective employer-members to outline the following solutions to be considered by elected officials: 

  • Employee Childcare Public Private Partnership – Legislation to create a tax credit for employers who furnish employee childcare in the amount of the employer’s cost in furnishing employee childcare. Legislation to incentivize employers to fund childcare for their employees by splitting the cost with the state, and providing tax credit incentives to employers who participate. 
  • Childcare Tax Credit for Parents – Expanding the Child and Dependent Care Enhancement Program. Last year’s budget included funds for up to 30 percent of childcare-related expenses that filers claim on their federal return. This program is meant to support working families by lessening their tax liability. A total of $24.6 million went into the program for last FY and is now a permanent fixture of the state’s tax code. However, expanding the program will allow more middle-income parents to return to the workforce. 
  • Retention and Recruitment – Proposals potentially being considered during the current state budget negotiation to offer rebates/incentives for nursing, teaching and policing jobs should be extended to the childcare community. Hiring incentives would be a great first step to address the ongoing issue of low wages ($12.43/hour statewide average) currently paid to childcare workers being a disincentive to join this critical field. 
  • Regulatory Reform – The Chamber Community is advocating that any future regulatory proposals must ensure proper stakeholder input from childcare providers with special consideration to infant care. In addition, any changes do not lead to increased costs for providers. 

The lack of accessible and affordable childcare is negatively impacting the economy and costing employers, our collective Chamber members, $2.88 billion and the state of Pennsylvania $3.47 billion in losses each year. 

“We hope both parties in the House and Senate see the momentous support of our proposed solutions. To have 55 chamber executives from every region in the Commonwealth sign on in support of this initiative – we believe we are sending a clear message. It is time to make a commitment to future generations that will lay the foundation for a more prosperous economy,” said Manion. 

Learn more at the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry.

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