GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — The pandemic kept most families isolated in their own homes – changing the demand and availability of childcare across Colorado. The lack of affordable care and workers have grave repercussions for companies and the state’s economy.

Our Khira Isaacs spoke with the Director of a local childcare facility, to get her perspective on this gap — and what can be done.

There’s no greater stress for a working parent than finding childcare solutions to fit the needs of your family. A new report from the Common Sense Institute found the gap in childcare is growing — nearly 95,000 kids in Colorado need childcare but can’t access it — that number translates to about 38% of the state’s families.

So how do the numbers look in Mesa County? A whopping 9,000 children under the age of 4 need childcare here but only 50% are able to access it.

“I’ve been doing childcare in Grand Junction for right on about 4 years and it seems like many years of that there’s not enough childcare,” says Director for Heavens Little Steps, Michelle Dunn.

A big part of the problem, is the lack of affordability. Colorado is the eighth most expensive place for childcare in the country, costing families nearly 18% of their income.

“It’s between $50 and $52 a day…,” continues Dunn.

For a family with an infant and a 4 year old, the cost spikes to 37.9% of the household income — more expensive than what an average family spends to pay their mortgage.

“And a lot of centers require 5 days a week and that’s about $250 a week. how can you make a living?” continues Dunn.

And that’s not the only challenge. Providers are struggling to keep their doors open, with 913 childcare programs closing across Colorado between April of 2018 and 2021. Thankfully, Heavens Little Steps remained open during this time and Michelle believes the pandemic helped shine a light on the childcare shortage that was present before COVID.

“You’ve got medical professionals who had to go to work and they were unable to find childcare,” says Dunn.

Staffing also seems to be a big challenge with 20% of job seekers saying they can’t work for a variety of reasons, including the possibility of getting sick with COVID-19.

“It’s also a high stress job. Many individuals don’t understand how to work in childcare and they can make more money somewhere else,” says Dunn.

Colorado has injected hundreds of millions of dollars into the childcare industry. And recently created a 21 point 5 million dollar grant to fund facilities throughout our state. Go. Jared Polis and state legislators also allocated $465 million for Childcare investments and grants.

Which leaves us to wonder if this will be a step in the right direction to fixing the childcare gap…Dunn thinks its a bigger issue than just finding childcare centers.