December 9, 2022

Rhett Buttle, Senior Advisor for Small Business for America’s Future, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the ways lack of quality child care is impacting small businesses.

Video Transcript

JARED BLIKRE: Small business owners continue to be in survival mode. In a new survey out by a national coalition, the Small Business for America’s Future, it shows more than 50% of small business owners say the lack of affordable childcare for employees, that has negative impacted their business. Joining us with more on this is Rhett Buttle, senior advisor for Small Businesses for America’s Future, and also Yahoo Finance’s Dani Romero. So thank you for joining us here. And we– I just want to kick this off. What was the biggest takeaway that you found in this report, Rhett?

RHETT BUTTLE: Well, we did a national survey of over 1,000 small business owners. And it was quite recent, actually, just in August. And basically, we’re seeing the issue of unaffordable childcare impact not only the people who work for small businesses, but quite frankly, it’s having an impact on the bottom line of small businesses, which, as we all know, they’re our country’s job creators.

DANI ROMERO: Yeah, and Rhett, what is the solution? I mean, increasing pay, adding flexible hours, and who does this really fall in– like, fall onto? Like, the federal government or local jurisdictions?

RHETT BUTTLE: Yeah, it’s a great question. I mean, really, what we have here is we have a broken market. And, you know, obviously, there’s a lot of unique things going on. We’re seeing some interesting private sector solutions. So we see large corporations being able to do interesting things. But small businesses just don’t have the same resources that large companies do.

And so, really, we think that there is a federal solution that needs to happen. And really, we’ve been looking to the federal government to be able to make a play here. Obviously, Congress is having conversations right now about an infrastructure package. We think that this might be an opportune time for Congress to do something about unaffordable childcare for small businesses and workers.

DANI ROMERO: You know, I read an article by the Harvard Business Review, and they said that childcare is not a family issue, but more of a business issue. What is your take on that? And I guess, how can businesses add that childcare to their infrastructure, especially on a small business scale?

RHETT BUTTLE: Yeah, I mean, I would go as far as to say, look, this is a multi-stakeholder issue. It’s an issue for businesses, families, workers, communities. This is something we have to figure out. Coming out of COVID right now, a lot of people are re-examining the way that we think about work. Workers are thinking about changing jobs. Small business owners are, more than ever, trying to compete for employees. So this is something we have to figure out.

And that means that our federal government needs to step up and be able to figure this out. We have to be able to provide affordable childcare, level the playing field for small businesses. And for that, we need a federal solution. We saw in our poll, for example, 64% of small business owners actually support direct ongoing financial assistance to families to help with childcare services. So we think that could be a solution. And we also saw that 70% of small business owners think supporting federal funding is important.

So, this infrastructure package promotes a really good opportunity to take advantage of doing something about this issue, which, as you said, is an issue for everyone, but it is a business issue.

DANI ROMERO: Yeah, and I guess, back to your survey, what industries are really feeling this pressure? And, you know, if this infrastructure does get passed, like, it’ll take a while for these small businesses to even feel that. So I mean, when could they really see this childcare crisis really avert?

RHETT BUTTLE: Yeah, so, you know, the small business community is vast and diverse, right? You have everything from independent contractors to restaurants and high tech startups. And our sort of survey really runs the gamut of industries. And, you know, what we generally see is that larger businesses or higher paid sort of industries, they have more opportunities to figure out this.

We really see, though, that in the lower wage industries, where there’s more low wage workers, minimum wage workers, this is more of a challenge. And that’s where, quite frankly, a lot of small businesses are. And so, we think a lot of the targeted focus, you know, we need to fix the overall program. But we think there’s a lot of opportunity there as well.

And look, I mean, this infrastructure package, we could begin to see immediate benefits. Right now, one of the things that, as you know, was passed in previous laws was the extension of the childcare tax credit. That is immediate money that is now going into the hands of families. They’re spending that money. It’s getting into the economy. That helps small businesses. One of the things that they’ve been talking about in this law is how do we extend that, make that more permanent. We also think that that could be a really important step for small businesses and working families.

DANI ROMERO: Yeah, and one last thing is, have you heard from small business owners that have adapted or made changes because of this, of the childcare crisis?

RHETT BUTTLE: Yeah, we actually just did an event the other day. I mean, it’s really interesting. We heard from a small business owner who unfortunately lost an employee because of childcare and it being a challenge. You know, and then, on the other hand, we’ve heard some amazing stories of small business owners who’ve been adaptable, right? They’ve allowed their employees to bring their kids into the office, or they’ve set up facilities and things like that.

So there are creative solutions, but the reality is, this is a much broader problem. And we have to make a societal decision. And that’s why we really need that government intervention. And so, that’s why we’re really pushing in the last few weeks of negotiation on this package for the federal government to step up and really solve this childcare problem for small businesses and families.

JARED BLIKRE: And before we go, I just want to ask you. Surveying the various sectors and industries, what sectors are getting affected the most by this?

RHETT BUTTLE: So, you know, it’s hard to tell by which exact sector. We know that the vast majority of small businesses do employ workers that are more low wage or working at a minimum wage and really, like, working families. So that’s really where we see the gap and the need. And that’s really where we think the targeted assistance could be helpful.

A lot of times, higher wage employees are able to figure this out. They’re able to get additional help. Or they’re able to get resources at work. And so, that’s why I think we see such a challenge here. Not that all employers aren’t dealing with this issue, but in particular, small business owners, the people who work for them, and quite frankly, the communities that they help generate jobs for, that’s where we think the focus should be.

JARED BLIKRE: Well, and we thank you for joining us, Rhett. That’s Rhett Buttle, the senior advisor for Small Business for America’s Future, and of course, Yahoo Finance’s Dani Romero.