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Alabama, national leaders strategize childcare access at annual Women’s Foundation research event

The Women’s Foundation of Alabama this week hosted their annual research showcase that brought together Alabama leaders to address the business case for child care, and the benefits that expanding access to child care would have on Alabama’s economy. 

The event, “Clearing the Path: The Business Case for Child Care,” featured speakers including U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Communications Officer Michelle Russo, Alabama Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, Manufacture Alabama President and CEO Jon Barganier, Business Council of Alabama Executive Vice President Clay Scofield, and others. 

“There are 45 available workers for every 100 open jobs in Alabama,” Russo told the large audience of policymakers, stakeholders and business leaders. 

“The state economy is growing, and unemployment rates are at historic lows – but Alabama still has one of the lowest labor force participation rates in the country at 57.2 percent. And a lack of available, quality child care keeps working parents on the sidelines. It makes it harder for them to provide for their families and it means companies continue to struggle to fill open jobs.” 

RELATED: North Alabama coming together for childcare access

Clearing the Path is the Women’s Foundation of Alabama’s annual research showcase to highlight eye-opening data, convene policy makers, business and community leaders, and ignite robust dialogue surrounding the role of women in our state’s future prosperity. 

The 2024 research report and watershed event emphasize the impact of child care on Alabama’s economy and families.

“Just like a road or a bridge, child care is a necessary infrastructure to keep Alabama working,” Women’s Foundation of Alabama’s President and CEO Melanie Bridgeforth, said.

“I am grateful that such a strong group of elected officials, business and civic leaders were able to gather for this important conversation and I look forward to working with them to solve this issue for the benefit of Alabama women and Alabama’s economic future. I would like to give a special thank you to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for their support on this issue, and for Alabama Power inviting them to attend this week.” 

“Lack of access to child care keeps many Alabamians out of the job market,” said Ainsworth. “My 21st Century Workforce Commission, the Women’s Foundation of Alabama, and Manufacture Alabama support a commonsense child care tax credit that opens the door to employment for those with children.”

Ainsworth serves as chairman of the Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce, which released a report earlier this week that highlighted its recommendations for improving Alabama’s low labor force participation rate, with child care tax credits being one of its key recommendations.

In addition to Ainsworth, members of the commission include Alabama Power Company CEO Jeff Peoples, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative CEO Gary Smith, State Senators April Weaver, R-Brierfield, Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, Donnie Chesteen, R-Dothan, Linda Coleman Madison, D-Birmingham, and State Representatives Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville, Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn, and Debbie Wood, R-Valley.

According the Women’s Foundation of Alabama:

  • More than one million workers, representing half of the state’s workforce, are women. 
  • Women workers contribute $43 billion in earnings every year to the state’s economy.
  • Labor force participation for women with young children is limited in large part by barriers in access to quality and affordable child care.
  • There are only enough child care seats for about 36 percent of Alabama’s young children, even though 65 percent of children under five have a working single parent or both parents in the labor force.

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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