Lack of access to quality childcare poses significant challenges for families in South Carolina. A committee formed in September 2023 is looking for solutions.
Forty-two percent of South Carolinians reside in a childcare desert according to a Center for American Progress report. The deserts are areas with either no childcare providers or a significant imbalance between the number of children and licensed childcare facilities.
In Horry County, 43.1% of children under five reside in childcare deserts, according to the YMCA of Coastal Carolina.
The lack of access is forcing some families to make difficult decisions about their children's care and may be affecting their ability to fully engage in the workforce.
The recent expiration of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) childcare funding on Sept. 30, 2023, has further aggravated the already dire childcare situation in South Carolina. ARPA, a federal pandemic relief package enacted in 2021, provided the State of South Carolina with a lifeline of $273 million in supplemental Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding and $437 million in childcare stabilization grant funding.
The loss of this crucial support has created a void in the state's childcare infrastructure, jeopardizing the existence of an estimated six hundred childcare programs across South Carolina, potentially affecting nearly 50,000 South Carolina children.
While the current childcare crisis in South Carolina is indeed a cause for concern, the state is taking proactive measures to address this pressing issue. On Sept. 27, 2023, S.C. Senate President Thomas Alexander and S.C. House Speaker Murrell Smith announced the formation of a new committee dedicated to examining the availability and affordability of childcare, a move that aligns with the state's broader efforts to strengthen workforce development. The committee's primary objective is to explore innovative solutions that can expand access to quality childcare, enabling parents to fully participate in the workforce.
Tackling the childcare crisis presents a formidable challenge for South Carolina, yet it also presents an opportunity for statewide growth and collaboration. By recognizing childcare as an essential component of its economic development strategy, South Carolina can pave the way for a more prosperous future for its families and its workforce.