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February 16, 2021

Appropriations Committee Releases Report on Fiscal and Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Nebraska's Early Childhood Workforce

Findings Reveal Serious Challenges With Significant Implications for the State's Economy


A media release for LR 390 sent out by Sen. John Stinner

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Appropriations Committee of the Nebraska Legislature is today releasing its Interim Study Report on Legislative Resolution 390. "Examination of the Fiscal and Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Nebraska’s Early Childhood Workforce and the Early Childhood Care and Education System" includes study findings as well as committee recommendations.

Sen. John Stinner (District 48), Appropriations Committee chair and member of the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission, introduced LR 390 in July 2020 to ensure that the state’s early childhood system is stable enough to support children's development during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

“We knew going into the pandemic that there are tremendous challenges facing child care in our state,” Stinner said. “Nebraska already has a shortage of child care—91% of counties do not have sufficient child care to meet local demands, and 12 counties do not have a single licensed provider. We wanted to know more about how this crisis is affecting the early childhood workforce, parents, and businesses, and what is needed to properly fund the system.”

The legislative study included a range of activities designed to understand the impact of the pandemic, including a public hearing that included testimony from a range of government and university officials, business leaders, and early childhood experts, as well as a briefing with members of the Health and Human Services Committee. Key findings from the study include:

  • 231 licensed providers (not including license-exempt providers) across the state have permanently closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 51% of Nebraska child care providers who responded reported that without financial assistance they would probably or definitely close if the COVID-19 pandemic continued or worsened.
  • 1 in 4 providers has seen their income reduced by over 50%.
  • Most providers (87%) would apply for financial assistance, if offered.

Study findings also address the requirements of a fully funded early childhood system in the state. National and state experts call for funding child care and early learning programs based on the size of the economy given the foundational role these services play in local and state economies. This is a particularly urgent issue in Nebraska given its high percentage of working parents: Nebraska ties three other states for having the highest percentage of children with all available parents in the workforce.

As part of the study, Sen. Stinner initiated two statewide surveys to learn firsthand the experiences of parents and businesses during the pandemic, especially as it relates to child care. More than 1,200 parents and business owners from nearly every county in the state responded to the survey.

Parents responding to the survey reported multiple issues with child care since the pandemic began in mid-March. More than half (52%) of parents had to miss work because of child care and other issues, and many (44%) had to reduce their work hours because of child care issues. Parents also reported that the pandemic has caused significant emotional stress for them and their children.

Over three-fourths (78%) of the business owners who responded to the survey said they had to make changes to employee shifts or schedules because of child care arrangements, and 71% reported that employees have been late or that they have missed or left work because of child care problems. Business owners reported that these difficulties have created fears of long-term impact on their businesses and their community.

“Helping Nebraska businesses survive the current economic turmoil is one of the state’s highest priorities,” said Stinner. “The Appropriations Committee recognizes its obligation to set budget and policy decisions that will allow and encourage the state economy to flourish. The pandemic has revealed just how foundational the child care industry is to Nebraska’s economy.”

Based on study findings, the Appropriations Committee recommends the Nebraska Legislature take the following steps:

  • Express the Legislature’s appreciation to members of the early childhood care and education workforce for their efforts on behalf of Nebraska’s youngest citizens throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Acknowledge the essential role that early childhood care and education plays in our state’s economy and the importance of its availability and infrastructure in communities across the state.
  • Explore the policy implications of and steps necessary to fund the early childhood care and education system based on the size of Nebraska’s economy.
  • Explore and evaluate public- and private-sector financing options for the early childhood care and education system. Consider a phased approach for fully funding the system commensurate with our state’s economy and growth.

The foundation for LR 390 was an analysis of Nebraska’s strengths and challenges across all sectors affecting early care and education provided in “Elevating Nebraska’s Early Childhood Workforce: Report and Recommendations of the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission,” released on Jan. 30, 2020.

Read the full study report and related materials at https://nebraskalegislature.gov/reports/appropriations.php

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