Gayle Manning and Dan Weiss


NORTH RIDGEVILLE, Ohio — When businesses are clear about what they need to grow, contribute to the economy, and sustain and grow jobs, government officials need to listen. This is especially true of small businesses, which are the backbone of Ohio’s economy, accounting for 99.6% of all Ohio businesses and 44.7% of Ohio’s employees.

Even as we emerge from the pandemic, big challenges remain for small businesses. Chief among them is the ability to hire and retain qualified employees. In fact, a new survey of small business owners from Goldman Sachs’ “10,000 Voices of Small Business” shows that this is the No. 1 problem facing small businesses in Ohio and nationwide.

The root cause of this workforce challenge is the lack of affordable and accessible childcare. According to the survey, small business owners overwhelmingly — 83% in Ohio and 80% nationally — said lack of child care continues to be a barrier to workforce participation, with fewer than five in five having the right amount or more than enough high-quality child care options in their communities. Small business owners want to know and understand their employees, and in Ohio, more than nine in 10 believe it is difficult for working parents to afford quality child care programs for their children.

The experiences and attitudes of small business owners are focused on economic data, and a recent ReadyNation report found that the child care crisis is costing Ohio’s economy an estimated $3.9 billion annually in lost revenue, productivity and income.

Northeast Ohio is no different. We know firsthand that ongoing and growing workforce challenges are directly tied to access to high-quality child care—two interrelated crises that hinder economic growth.

So, it’s no surprise that Ohio’s small business owners (80%) support policymakers taking action to increase access to affordable child care.

Fortunately, we have an amazing opportunity at our fingertips to tackle this challenge head on. The Ohio Legislature is currently in the midst of approving a budget. When signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine in late June, the budget will fund state government for two years.

Earlier this year, Gov. Dewin released a budget proposal that prioritized key investments in quality and affordable child care. These investments include:

  • It has already secured $150 million in federal funding to provide child care scholarships and increase infant and toddler care capacity in the state.
  • Expand eligibility for the state’s publicly funded child care program from 142% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 160%.
  • In early childhood education, $46 million per year in grants to expand preschool education.

When the House passed the budget last month, the expansion of FPL eligibility and the $46 million annual increase in pre-school investments were preserved. Although the House has included an additional $15 million annually for preschool and $15 million annually for infant and toddler care capacity-building grants at the governor’s request, $150 million for child care scholarships for direct care workers (including those in child care) is unfortunately missing from the House. A version has been removed because of concerns about the one-time nature of funding. With the current budget in the Senate, we hope these scholarships will continue to be supported by strong legislative leadership, understanding the positive impact this investment can have and allowing our state’s businesses to continue to put people back to work.

This sentiment and call for these special investments in child care was echoed in a letter to the state legislature signed by Goldman Sachs, “The Voice of 10,000 Small Businesses,” along with major business organizations such as the Ohio Business Roundtable, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Commerce, Ohio Manufacturers Association, Ohio Chamber of Retail Merchants, Ohio Restaurant Association, and dozens of other local and statewide organizations and business leaders.

As they write, “Even with these targeted investments, too many children and their families are still left behind. They’re just the start needed to fully address the child care crisis facing children, parents and Ohio businesses, but they’re an important step in the right direction.

Gov. Devin’s leadership should serve as a guiding light for the Legislature to pass a budget that includes child care priorities. They are certainly just the beginning – but they will provide a significant return on investment and put our state on the path to a friendlier business environment.

State Rep. Gayle Manning, a Republican from North Ridgeville, represents the 52nd Ohio House District. Dan Weiss is the founder and president of Adatasol, a software company headquartered in Highland Heights.

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