Albany Times Union
All work, some play
Semiconductors, singalongs and snack time: They’re all part of President Joe Biden’s economic investment plan — and that bodes well for New York.
The federal Commerce Department has declared that big tech projects receiving CHIPS Act money must provide affordable child care for employees and construction workers. This sensible strategy will make these federal investments go farther, building stronger communities and better business outcomes.
It’s not uncommon for government subsidies to be tethered to larger social or policy goals — “Buy American,” say, or “Build Union.” And Republicans who are howling that a “woke” agenda is being shoehorned into an economic package are missing the point: Boosting the economy is exactly the goal here. A recent study by Readynation, a nonprofit organization of business executives, calculated that a lack of child care costs the economy $122 billion per year in lost earnings, productivity and revenue. Not having affordable, reliable child care keeps women out of the workforce, reducing family income and spending power. Complaining there aren’t enough workers? Provide more child care, and you get more workers.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy. The U.S. child care sector was in tough shape before the pandemic, and it’s worse now. In 2020, the Center for American Progress found that 64 percent of New Yorkers live in a “child care desert” — a census tract with so few options that there are more than three times as many children as slots for care. Onondaga County, where Micron Technology plans to build a $100 billion semiconductor factory, is one such desert. The state is also working to ease the crunch.
As The New York Times reports, under the new rules, CHIPS fund recipients can build their own day-care facility, invest in community businesses, or subsidize workers’ expenses. The last approach might seem easiest for manufacturers, but it would have the lowest chance of success, given how little child care is available. Most providers are small businesses, and structured investment would best strengthen local economies.
Of course, it would be much better to have a comprehensive national plan to expand child care, as was chopped out of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, because all economic sectors deserve the growth potential this smart investment could bring. But even small improvements will have ripple effects, and this one will open doors for more workers — and extend the subsidies’ reach.
A good idea takes root
What with the chatter of competing priorities, limited funds and the gray monolith of bureaucracy, it can sometimes be tough for a good, small idea to find purchase. In Albany, one has secured a toehold and is now reaching higher.
The city is looking to add speed humps on more streets after seeing success in a pilot program that had placed 25 humps along four streets in the South End and West Hill. Mayor Kathy Sheehan said last year that the program had reduced speeding on those streets by 88 percent.
Now they’re asking Common Council members to suggest streets in their wards that would be good candidates for the traffic-calmers. Kudos to Albany for seeking community input — residents, after all, know their neighborhoods best. And good for the city for being willing to try out a good idea, and to build on it when it works. For neighborhood safety and quality of life, this small change could have a big impact.