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Shortage, high cost of childcare in Nevada affecting workforce

A child plays with colorful plastic blocks. Children in need of quality childcare is in high demand but short supply, including for disabled children,  parents say.
Boonchai Wedmakawand, Getty Images
A child plays with colorful plastic blocks. Children in need of quality childcare is in high demand but short supply, including for disabled children, parents say.

We all heard of the supply chain problems during the pandemic. For the most part, they’ve disappeared.

But there’s one supply shortage that’s sticking around and Nevada and other states are trying to figure out what to do about it. It’s the lack of child care.

Every Nevada county, both rural and urban, is a child-care desert, according to the Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation. Nationally, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 100,000 fewer child-care workers than before the pandemic.

And that’s a big problem for employees and employers who need high quality, affordable childcare — especially in Nevada, where more than 65% of its children live in homes where both parents work. And it’s a problem for employers, who are still having a hard time finding enough workers.

Many studies say the shortage is keeping women out of the workforce and hitting working- and middle-class families particularly hard.

What does this mean in Nevada?

Lisa Levine is director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation. She joined State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann along with Ken Evans from the Nevada Workforce Development Board, Susan Brager of the Nevada State Board of Regents and attorney Gina Bongiovi to try and answer that question.

The state is facing a low labor force participation rate, Levine said, which is why her agency and others are working to increase participation, diversify the workforce and ensure people have access to career paths and workforce training.

Their report found that 75% of Nevada children (0-5) do not have access to licensed childcare, which impedes their parents’ ability to work.

Last week, they held meetings that brought together 20 of Nevada’s key players in workforce development. Levine said businesses small and large, and organizations like Opportunity Village and SafeNest took part.

“One of the things that was pretty incredible from my perspective is during the meeting, we had public comment, the Nevada Mining Association on record said they supported more access to child care for their workers. So to the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Workforce Connections, as well as many other players,” she said. “It's a really diverse coalition that's coming together and saying, ‘You know what? We see that childcare is impeding our ability to succeed, and something needs to be done about it.’”

The average cost of childcare in Nevada, according to Levine, is about $17,000 for a parent with one child. The younger the child, the more expensive the care, and the high costs are statewide.

So what do you do about it?

She said their report breaks it down by workforce infrastructure. “You need a place that the kids can go.” She said they also identified home care and employer on-site childcare.

“And there's actually a national childcare tax credit that businesses can utilize called 45F, which when we conducted a business survey from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15, 90% of businesses that responded to the survey were unaware of the 45F childcare tax credit. So that right there is an opportunity for us to expand infrastructure and bring in more federal dollars to the state.”

Bongiovi is a Las Vegas business lawyer and an active member of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. In November 2021, the group wrote on its website that childcare is a two-generation workforce issue because it’s supporting the workforce of today and developing the workforce of tomorrow. She said successes in the workforce can be lost without childcare access.

“I work with business owners, and so many other of my fellow chamber members are struggling to find help … workers to come back to work. And it doesn't make sense if somebody's practically breaking even by putting their kid in childcare. A lot of people are choosing to stay home and not return to the workforce. We're trying to figure out a way to bridge that gap,” she said. Bongiovi also said it’s difficult to attract new businesses to Nevada with a lack of childcare.

To fix the issue, Evans said you need to fund childcare providers and families who need it.

“I think we need to structure things where we help on both ends. It's not fair to ask someone that's a childcare worker that you're trusting with your child to work for below livable wage. And then at the same time, we also need to support the employees in particular, small, diverse businesses. They want to be able to hire people, typically people from within their community, but they may not be in a position to leverage resources like a larger corporation,” he said.

He said one of the things that came from the recent meeting was the need to publicize the 45F program. Levine said the program provides a $150,000 tax credit on an annual basis for a business.

Brager is also a former Clark County commissioner and Clark County School District board member. She recently wrote a letter that became part of a childcare report from the Workforce Development Board.

She said in the system of licensing, what sometimes stops childcare is vaccines. If you don’t have certain vaccines, you’re unable to be a childcare provider.

“Also,” she continued, “If you had an incident in your life when you were 18, or 25, and you were still young, but 20, 30 years goes by, that is holding you up and not letting you move through your life. So your past becomes your future. And if we have a past that word is key. If it's something that you've never done again …. Why would we want to say that person isn't able to take care of a child or an adult in an adult facility?”

Guests: Lisa Levine, director, Nevada Governor's Office of Workforce Innovation; Ken Evans, co-chair, Nevada Workforce Development Board; Susan Brager, board member, Nevada State Board of Regents; Gina Bongiovi, business attorney

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Dave Berns, now a producer for State of Nevada, recently returned to KNPR after having previously worked for the station from 2005 to 2009.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.
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