Diane Temme Stinton is owner and CEO of TMCO based in Lincoln. She testified before the Nebraska Legislature’s Revenue Committee in support of LB318 on behalf of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the nearly 300 members of the Nebraska Economic Developer’s Association.
TMCO is a contract metal manufacturing company founded in 1974. We are a second-generation small family business with a sales revenue of around $50 million and 230 employees. In visiting companies in the U.S. and around the world, I can attest that our competitive advantage is workforce. Nebraska has an unparalleled work ethic and pride in labor that is worth its weight in gold.
Insufficient child care threatens workforce
The insufficient child care infrastructure threatens this advantage. The increasing cost and lack of available care are real concerns that have caused people to leave the workforce at a time when unemployment is at historic lows. Innovative solutions are needed in cooperation with private and public sectors to address the problem. This is why I support LB318. It is designed to support working parents and child care providers by offering a tiered refundable tax credit for parents, a tiered nonrefundable tax credit to individuals, companies or other taxpaying entities who make a financial contribution to increase the availability of quality child care options and finally, by reauthorizing the School Readiness Tax Credit program, a refundable and nonrefundable tax credit to support our child care employees and providers.
As a business owner who has been engaged with this issue for the past few years, it is apparent that the child care system is broken and that child care does not follow the economics of for-profit business. Child care providers are operating on razor-thin margins, with some of the lowest-paid employees often without benefits. Conversations with providers about the sustainability of their business model and attracting and retaining talent raises grave concerns for the future, especially as child care is critical to workforce participation. This is a statewide issue which is key to building a workforce and being an attractive option for people considering a move to Nebraska.
TMCO is committed to supporting our employees and their families through innovative programming. We partner with a high-quality child care provider and offer early enrollment and subsidized tuition to help families with availability and affordability. In the near future, we have plans to offer financial support for all children from birth to age 5 to support the young parents who work for us. We are not only helping to form solutions, but we are also actively fighting to keep our employees.
LB318 is one way public sector can help
Businesses across the state are fighting to keep people employed and the support of Nebraska families and of our critical child care providers through LB318 is one way in which the public sector can help us in this fight.
Investment in child care infrastructure will mean better opportunities for economic growth and more income for working families. Data clearly show that investment in early childhood education creates tremendous societal return on investment as it impacts educational attainment, employment, health and criminality.
It also has the potential to address equity in our communities as quality opportunities for care can be extended to more children and families that need them. The burden of child care and those forced to make a decision between care and employment are also disproportionately women. This threatens to worsen gender inequalities, wage gaps and opportunities for women in the workplace, not to mention exacerbate the higher rates of poverty experienced by women.
Economic growth at stake
In consideration of child care infrastructure, I think it’s necessary to look hard and deep at what the future could look like. Consider that Pew Research shows that a rising number of young adults in the U.S. say they are unlikely to have children, a significant reason being the cost of raising children. We are already seeing countries with a low birth-rate problem. This is going to have drastic effects on their labor and economy. Fortunately, we are still in a position to address issues that will encourage people that working and raising a family is possible in Nebraska. Without public incentive and support, the youngest Nebraskans are at stake and with it, the ability to continue strong economic growth. LB318 is a step in the right direction.
I’d like to reiterate: Nebraska has an unparalleled work ethic and pride in labor that is worth its weight in gold. We need support to attract and retain it and it is in everyone’s interest to help out hardworking families and the critical providers who make it happen.