September 26, 2023
This Week in Massachusetts – September 26
Editor’s note – This is the final edition of This Week in Massachusetts. Stay tuned as AIM introduces…Read More
Posted on June 3, 2022
Not a week goes by without national headlines shining a spotlight on the child-care crisis. Once a topic at many dinner tables, child-care access and affordability are now the centerpieces of a national conversation about the economy. We’re still talking about it at the dinner table, too.
Parents are worried about balancing concerns of income loss and career advancement with how to afford child care. Education experts, who tout the positive lifelong effects of quality early education, which is a critical component of quality child care, are warning of the long-term detriments of learning loss.
Employers are worried too. Labor shortages and talent retention threaten many industries. According to a McKinsey report, more than 15 million U.S. workers have quit their jobs since April 2021 – and 45% of those surveyed said taking care of family was a key factor in their decision.
The problem is complex and the solutions myriad, but with public policy changes, philanthropy, and intentional employer practices, our child-care woes could become a thing of the past.
We applaud the commitment of public officials who are working to address this issue through policy proposals and increased budget allocations for early childhood initiatives. Earlier this year, the City of Boston created a new Office of Early Childhood aimed at closing equity gaps in child care. Further, the Common Start legislation on Beacon Hill aims to establish a universal system of early education and child care, with increased funding to families and child care providers across the commonwealth.
These efforts are important to our region. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Massachusetts ranks second out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for most expensive infant care, costing $8,134 more per year than in-state tuition for four-year public college.
While we balk at the cost—we might all agree that child care should not cost as much as college—it’s time for us to acknowledge that high-quality early childhood education correlates to future success. It’s time to invest accordingly.
Lest we forget what is at stake, research shows that for every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education, society gains up to $7.30 in economic returns. Conversely, a lack of affordable, reliable child care takes a major toll on the economy. A recent Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation study estimated that Massachusetts loses roughly $2.7 billion each year due to inadequate child care.
Since 2004, PNC has championed access to high-quality early childhood education through its signature philanthropic initiative, PNC Grow Up Great. Now a $500 million commitment, Grow Up Great has benefitted more than 8 million children nationwide. In Boston, PNC has supported program quality, innovation, and expansion with grants to Ellis Early Learning Center and Neighborhood Villages, among others.
We’re not the only business leaders for whom this issue resonates. Early last year, the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Education and Care formed as an advocacy group to promote accessible and affordable early education for Massachusetts workers. With 83 member companies, representing more than 270,000 employees and 20 business association partners, it is evident that the business community cares about this issue.
Beyond public investment and philanthropy lies the opportunity for employers to address the needs of working parents. To that end, PNC is launching the Best Place for Working Parents® initiative for the state of Massachusetts. Through this effort, Massachusetts joins the growing national network of Best Place for Working Parents® businesses proving that family-friendly is business friendly – through a first-of-its-kind, 3-minute online self-assessment that highlights the top 10 research-backed policies proven to benefit working parents and businesses’ bottom line.
Regularly recognized by Seramount as a Best Company for Dads and one of the nation’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers, PNC’s benefits are as varied as the families we employ. Resources include subsidized short-term child care, support to find long-term child care, and child care discounts. Through back-up care services, employees have access to a reliable resource when unexpected circumstances arise.
There are many other benefits that forward-thinking companies have implemented or are exploring and even more innovations that lie ahead. According to Care.com’s Future of Benefits report, 56% of employers offer some form of child-care benefits. About 50% of HR professionals surveyed reported their companies planned to offer or expand child-care benefits
What role do corporations play in helping young children and their families gain access to quality, affordable early education and care? Some companies still might insist they are not in the child care business, but we’d ask them to reconsider.
Recently, the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission recommended engaging the business community to identify and promote employer best practices and explore incentives to support additional benefits. The Massachusetts Business Coalition has already initiated a working group to delve further into this topic.
Our region is a hub of excellence, often at the forefront of reimagining policy and developing innovative solutions to whatever societal challenge we’re facing – new healthcare systems, scientific and medical discoveries, disruptive technology, progressive social policy.
With bright minds, a spirit of ingenuity, a culture of corporate social responsibility, and a moral compass, Massachusetts can lead the way.
Jon Bernstein is regional president for PNC Bank in New England. He also serves as co-chair of the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Education and Care. Saskia Epstein is senior vice president, client and community relations for PNC Bank in New England. She is a member of the Boston Public Schools’ Universal Pre-K Advisory Committee and Massachusetts Advisory Council on Early Education and Care.