The Colorado Business Roundtable is a public policy organization comprised of executives from some of the state’s largest employers working to strengthen Colorado’s economic vitality. After the events of 2020 — a global pandemic followed by an economic crisis — our mission became even more critical. In fact, our No. 1 priority for 2021 is to get Colorado back on the road to recovery.

Last summer, we worked with Common Sense Institute to bring together a diverse group of Colorado leaders to develop a plan for Colorado’s long-term economic success. The result of that effort is “The Road to Recovery,” a plan that identifies key policy areas that are essential to economic recovery.

Through that effort we learned a lot about the impact of COVID, the shutdowns and vulnerable points in our economy. One of the most significant was the disproportionate impact on women. Dubbed the “she-cession,” this recession has forced tens of thousands of Colorado women out of the workforce. Our economy simply will not fully recover if we can’t get women back to work.

How do we do that? We find solutions to the obstacles that prevent women from re-entering the workforce. One of the biggest obstacles identified in “The Road to Recovery” is child care. When schools and childcare temporarily closed due to COVID, it highlighted just how critical child care is to working parents and their employers.

The workforce has changed. More and more people are in dual-earner households or are working single parents. Child care isn’t just important in the midst of the pandemic;

good child care options were hard to find pre-COVID, too. The demand for licensed child care has long outpaced supply. More than half of all Coloradans live in an area where there are more than three times as many kids as places in licensed child care.

Although many of us think of child care as happening in centers, the vast majority of child care in the United States is home-based. A new report from ReadyNation points out that home-based care is an essential kind of support for the Colorado workforce with many parents relying on this type of care so that they can work to support their families. In Colorado, there are more than 12,000 children ages birth to five receiving care in licensed family child-care homes.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the number of licensed family child-care homes has plummeted 45% in Colorado. The drop has grown even worse during the pandemic, with an additional 10% of providers closing their doors. A 2020 parent survey found that family child-care homes was preferred by a higher percentage of parents than were using it, again, highlighting the lack of supply.

And, when supply dwindles, costs escalate.

What’s the answer? Increase supply for the more than 200,000 working parents in Colorado. It sounds simple. And, it can be. It starts with reducing the onerous regulatory barriers faced by home-based child-care providers.

We are blessed as a state to have thoughtful, innovative and committed business leaders, policy makers and elected officials. By putting our energy into developing strategies to expand access to high-quality, home-based child care, we can build stronger communities and achieve better economic outcomes that will benefit Colorado’s working families.

Debbie Brown is the president of the Colorado Business Roundtable, and a member of ReadyNation.

Debbie Brown is the president of the Colorado Business Roundtable, and a member of ReadyNation.

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