On Tuesday, November 28th, the Florida Chamber Foundation hosted a summit for state Chambers of Commerce and business and community leaders to discuss the “very different reality many Floridians live in.” Although Florida boasts the 16th largest economy in the world, and creates one of every 10 jobs in the United States, Florida also is home to more than 3 million people living in poverty. According to the United Way of Florida, childcare is often the greatest cost impediment to economic stability for our families. In fact, in most Florida counties, the least expensive childcare is a budget expense more costly than the least expensive rent. Other barriers—transportation, access and education—all combine to impede economic self-sufficiency.
The impact on business is considerable. A qualified potential employee, to cite just one example, may well feel compelled to pass on a job or promotion, because of the barriers he or she faces to accept the position: childcare costs are too high, transportation is not available or a wage increase will negatively affect other assistance being received.
The Foundation’s Summit, held at the Sheraton Riverwalk Tampa, brought together subject-matter experts to discuss topics including “Jobs, Florida’s Economy and the Need for a Skilled Workforce,” “Florida’s Cradle to Career Systems and Everything In-Between” and “Health, Affordable Housing and Food Security,” among others. Strategies identified were using a two-generational model, where both parents’ and children’s needs are met, making investments in early learning and taking advantage of opportunities to improve transportation and access and services.
Watch in the coming months for opportunities to engage our local community on this issue.