This photo shows Kayla Svinicki, director and owner of Little Moon Child Care on Jan. 28. Svinicki said that providing childcare is essential but that the economics of the situation make the work difficult. She said she hopes the country starts to treat childcare as part of the nation’s infrastructure. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)

This photo shows Kayla Svinicki, director and owner of Little Moon Child Care on Jan. 28. Svinicki said that providing childcare is essential but that the economics of the situation make the work difficult. She said she hopes the country starts to treat childcare as part of the nation’s infrastructure. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)

Report: 61% of Alaskans live in child care deserts

Local providers say the struggle is real

Parents of young children in Alaska face significant barriers to finding affordable, reliable child care, according to a new report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The report, called “Untapped Potential in AK” found that 61% of Alaskans live in “childcare deserts,” and 77% of parents missed work in the preceding three months due to gaps in child care.

“This really limits Alaskan’s ability to find and keep work long term,” said Kati Capozzi, President and CEO of the Alaska Chamber. “We knew it was going to be grim. It was a problem before the pandemic, and now, a top issue that my membership talks about. We’ve never really taken a look at the economic impact of child care. It’s quickly risen to the top of issues for my members.”

According to the report, child care issues result in an estimated $165 million loss each year for the state’s economy. That translates to an estimated $13 million loss in annual tax revenue and a $152 million cost to businesses due to employee turnover costs and absences.

“We have all these Alaskans who could be contributing and the first most important thing they need is child care that’s dependable and reliable,” Capozzi.

According to the report, about 7% of parents in Alaska say they have left a job voluntarily due to childcare issues, and 36% report postponing school or training programs due to childcare issues.

Local struggle

Kayla Svinicki, director and owner of Little Moon Child Care, said she sees the struggles first hand.

“The need for child care seems to be fairly healthy, and it is difficult to accommodate due to staffing shortages. There’s not a lack of families for looking family care,” Svenicki said.

[City Hall discussion moves forward]

Svenicki said she started her center-based business shortly before the pandemic-related lockdowns began and said the last two years have been tough for child care providers.

“We care so much. It radiates off our building. When the kids are here, and it’s happening, it feels good in my bones. But, the system needs a better foundation to stand on,” she said.

Svenicki said her facilities are among the newest in Juneau, and though she has physical space to accommodate more children, she doesn’t have the staffing. She currently has a waiting list.

“Child care really needs to be part of the infrastructure of this country. People wonder why more people aren’t going back to work. It’s because people don’t have anyone to take care of their kids,” Svenicki said.

Amanda Gornik, director of Gold Creek Child Care, said the center has a waitlist of about 125 children. She said staffing challenges are preventing the center from functioning at full capacity.

“I think with COVID, the staff has been stressed to the max. A lot of staff members are leaving education,” Gornik said, adding that she’s heard of local daycares forced to close due to a lack of staffing.

“In Juneau, we just need more centers up. Demand is a lot higher than what’s available,” Gornik said.

Costs

According to the chamber report, in places with a lack of childcare, families across the income spectrum struggle to find care.

In Juneau, the cost of care for a young child can take a bite out of a family’s budget — costing more over a year than tuition at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Svinicki said the monthly cost for the care of a baby is $1,150 at her center. Gornik said full-time care costs between $1,053 and $1,285 at Gold Creek Child Care.

By comparison, the cost for in-state residents to attend the University of Alaska Southeast on a full-time basis (15 credit hours) is $3,510 a semester or $7,020 a school year — about half of what a year of care costs for a baby.

Despite the costs to families, daycare operators struggle to make ends meet.

[UA President: University has turned a corner of funding]

“This is not a business where you can cut corners or cut costs,” Svinicki said.

Svinicki said that a subsidy from the City and Borough of Juneau helps cover the cost of some food at the center and that government relief funds, which will start to flow soon, will help the bottom line. But, challenges remain.

“We can’t support it by ourselves,” she said.

Svinicki said she’s excited about a new partnership with Coeur Alaska Kensington Mine.

According to Rochelle Lindley, community and government affairs manager at Coeur Alaska Kensington Mine, the company has created an employee benefit by pre-paying for six slots and offering them to employees at a subsidized rate.

Lindley said the mine has also made in-kind donations to the center.

“It’s a really new benefit–pushed out around holidays,” Lindley said. “We are really excited to see how this can benefit our employees and for recruitment.”

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmnund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 20

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, July 18, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Buttons on display at a campaign event Monday, July 8, 2024, in Juneau, urge supporters to vote against Ballot Measure 2, the repeal of Alaska’s current election system. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Ranked-choice repeal measure awaits signature count after Alaska judge’s ruling

Signatures must be recounted after judge disqualifies almost 3,000 names, citing state law violations.

The offices of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development in Juneau are seen on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska demographers predict population drop, a switch from prior forecasts

For decades, state officials have forecast major population rises, but those haven’t come to pass.

Neil Steininger, former director of the state Office of Management and Budget, testifies before the House Finance Committee at the Alaska State Capitol in January of 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Neil Steininger, former budget director for Gov. Dunleavy, seeking District 1 Juneau Assembly seat

Downtown resident unopposed so far for open seat; deadline to file for local races is Monday.

A mother bear and a cub try to get into a trash can on a downtown street on July 2, 2024. Two male bears were euthanized in a different part of downtown Juneau on Wednesday because they were acting aggressively near garbage cans, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Two black bears in downtown Juneau euthanized due to aggressive behavior around people

Exposed garbage, people insistent on approaching bears contribute to situation, official says

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, July 17, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Cars arrive at Juneau International Airport on Thursday, July 11, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Juneau seems to have avoided major disruptions following global technology-related outage

911 centers, hospitals, airport, and public safety and emergency management agencies are operating.

People take photos of local dignitaries during the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Teal Street Center on Thursday afternoon. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Teal Street Center celebrates with ribbon-cutting a year after social agencies begin providing services

Nine organizations providing legal, disability, counseling and other help open under one roof.

Most Read