This is a critical time for Alaska to invest in child care and housing

By Christina Eubanks

Updated: August 15, 2022 Published: August 15, 2022

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The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) recently reported that Alaska is losing working-age residents, which is undermining our business environment. As a child-care provider, I have seen this first-hand. Lack of housing and lack of child care are the major impediments to economic growth in our state, and these issues should be at the top of state and local policymakers’ agenda.

Over the past year, other child care providers and I worked hard to advance child care reform in the state Legislature. We were successful in getting HB 149 (introduced by Rep. Zack Fields, who co-chairs the House Labor and Commerce Committee) passed through the House on a bipartisan vote. I appreciate many leaders of the business community whose collaboration was important for this bill to advance. As passed in the House, HB 149 would have established a Child Care Trust Fund and empowered child care providers to have more influence over child care regulations. When the bill went to the Senate, Sens. Natasha Von Imhof and Tom Begich wisely proposed adding a Housing Trust Fund to the bill. Unfortunately, this bill ended up getting stuck in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, and did not pass. However, I still see the significant progress of HB 149 as a positive indicator for working families. The Legislature hasn’t seriously looked at child care in as long as I can remember, and passing ambitious legislation through at least one chamber represents real progress.

As candidates look for votes in the Aug. 16 primary and Nov. 8 general election, I hope they will lay out their plans to strengthen the child care sector and expand availability of housing. Here is the reality working families face:

Child care is extremely expensive even while child care workers suffer from abysmally low pay, and until the state empowers providers and injects meaningful funding into the system, we will have a shortage of child care. Every other developed nation on earth invests in child care — not just because it’s good for kids’ development, but because it’s pro-business.

Housing supply in Alaska doesn’t even come close to meeting demand, and it is incredibly difficult for private sector development proposals to be economical. We need state and local policymakers looking at every possible strategy, from Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) investment in housing to a Housing Trust Fund, to improve the economics for developers and get more housing under construction as soon as possible.

Working families across the country face challenging circumstances: Expensive housing, unaffordable or unavailable child care, and high transportation costs. These challenges also present Alaska with an opportunity: What if we worked together to have the best child care system and more affordable, available housing than any other city on the West Coast? Imagine how positive that would be for our economy, and for every business seeking skilled workers. We have large tracts of underdeveloped land in Anchorage, and ample policy opportunities to strengthen the child care sector.

While high oil prices burden working families, they also give state policy makers a fiscal opportunity to make generational investments in child care and housing. Don’t let this crisis go to waste, and don’t squander this surge in oil revenue. I hope policymakers transform this crisis into opportunity for Alaska, by working together to strengthen our child care sector and invest in more housing development.

Christina Eubanks is director of Hillcrest Children’s Center in Anchorage.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to [email protected] or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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