Bend council, Chamber seek solutions to child care shortage

BEND, Ore. – For the last nine months, child care has been a major talking point at Bend City Council meetings.

The council discussed potential options to reduce the barriers to developing new child care centers in the future. The growing population in Bend has exceeded the supply of child care openings. City of Bend Business Advocate Ben Hemson was one of the people who brought the topic to the council.

“It’s certainly exacerbated a little bit by the way we are growing pretty quickly here in Bend, Hemson said Thursday. We also have relatively high cost of living in Bend. So, having to pay an extra $13,000 to $15,000 a year to get your child into child care is a hurdle here.”

In Deschutes County, there is only one available child care spot for every three kids under the age of 5. Another issue can be the cost, as sometimes it can equal a rent or mortgage payment.

The permit process can be frustrating and tedious, according to Katie Brandow, owner of School of Enrichment, a new early childhood program opening this month.

It was a very frustrating and time-consuming process through this permit process, Brandow said. We ran into about every obstacle we possible could, and it’s something the city of Bend is trying to make easier for programs in the future. And this was a good example as to why it should be easier than it was.

In 2018, the Bend Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey on child care and its effects on business owners and employees. Seventy-three percent of employees said dealing with the child care shortage was very difficult. More than 20 percent of employees said child care takes 50 percent or greater than their total income.

Some progress has been made, as 13 new day cares have opened since July 2018, creating 156 new slots for children in Deschutes County.

The shortage of child care in Bend is not unique to our city or Central Oregon. It’s a problem nationwide, Hemson said.

The city is currently looking to hire a child care accelerator. The position would help assist child care providers in understanding the permitting process.

The Bend Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be hosting meetings next week in Central Oregon to discuss child care shortages. Meetings are scheduled on Sept. 25 in Madras, Prineville and Redmond, then on Sept. 26 in Bend and La Pine. You can find more information on those meetings by clicking here.

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