By Tressa Walton

SHE MATTERS- Barriers for Iowa women including a Daycare Crisis
-75% of the elderly poor are women and 82% of them were not poor before they became widows
-Iowa women earn 77% of what men earn when all other factors are equal
-Iowa women lose more than $4.6 billion annually in wages or 83 weeks of groceries in a household
-75% of Iowa households with children under age 6 have both parents working outside the home
-There are 4,189 children in Benton County and 811 child care spaces available in our County
-This leaves a shortfall of 3,378 spaces
-Benton County has lost 25% of its childcare programs in the last 5 years

These were just a few of the statistics that were shared by Dawn Wiand of the Iowa Women’s Foundation to several residents of Benton County Wednesday night. She discussed how if women are successful, the family is successful, and the community is successful. Dawn also discussed how 70% of Iowa’s female headed households are economically struggling.

An intensive research study was done throughout 18 cities/towns in Iowa to see what barriers women in Iowa face. The results of the study were employment, childcare, education/training, transportation, mentorship, and housing.

The most prevalent in the state of Iowa with over half of the participating cities was Childcare. Iowa is in a child care crisis right now.

After seeing Benton County’s statistics we learned that we are living in a Daycare Desert right now and it affects everyone. It’s part of the cycle of life for Iowa towns- businesses need workers and we need business to sustain our town; workers need housing to live in and daycare to be able to work outside the home, by working outside the home families have money to spend in local businesses.

This affects us all. We all need to be taking action and finding solutions.

One employer in Waterloo was losing 5 employee a month to issues with child care. The expense an employer goes through to market, hire, train a new employee, and get production back up to where they were is very costly. This affects employers who have numerous job openings in all areas and have workers who want to apply but the workers can’t find affordable or qualified daycare.

There are currently 39,591 job openings in Iowa ranging from all salary levels that employers are having a very difficult time filling and the #1 reason is CHILD CARE.

Several large Iowa employers have started partnering with Daycare facilities to create on-site daycare centers. Others have started subsidizing employees for daycare expenses. One example given of a business who said that starting an on-site daycare was the best decision they have made was in Norway, Iowa.

Iowa is a low wage state which means if households are going to survive, both parents have to work. There is currently a shortfall of 527,194 daycare spaces in Iowa. In Benton County alone, there is 1 slot available for every 5.2 children needing care. This leads to other issues such as kids going home after school that are too young to be going home alone.

The Iowa Women’s Foundation is working with numerous cities in Iowa to share what works for one community and steps those communities are taking to face this crisis head on. If you are interested in helping Benton County come up with solutions, there will be a follow-up meeting.

After all, this does affect us all. Please contact Tressa Walton at tressa@wilsonhite.com if you are interested in attending.