MISSOULA - It's been a problem in Missoula and Montana for years — the lack of childcare and the costs of it.
But now, as prices for everything from food to gas go up, parents and providers are feeling the strain. They see each other's side — but not the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Without childcare, we can't work," said Chelsea Nichols, a mom to a three-year-old. "None of us.”
Overworked, underpaid and hard to come by is the name of the game these days in childcare.
Wild Wonders Early Learning Program owner and operator Brianne Moline, says she wants to make her childcare affordable because she knows how desperately Missoula's parents need her.
“Childcare is essential," said Moline. "We are the workforce behind the workforce.”
But it's becoming more difficult. Moline's had to increase her rates as the cost of living and basic needs to run the facility have also increased. She currently charges families between $40 and $50 a day, depending on the age of their children.
After paying her employees and other bills for the development center, she makes about $5 a day for herself. And in order to make a salary of $12 an hour, she would have to raise her rates to $65 a day for all families.
WEB EXTRA: Wild Wonders Early Learning Program owner and operator Brianne Moline discusses the childcare crisis in the video below.
That is something she says just isn’t reasonable for families.
“It's like yeah, it’s really hard on us parents, really hard," Nichols told MTN News. "But then it's just equally as hard for the program as well.”
For mom to 3-year-old Sterling, Chelsea Nichols, childcare is imperative. Nichols who works in healthcare relies on Wild Wonders so she can continue to provide for him. But it's a service that's becoming harder and harder to afford.
“It is about one and a half times as much as my rent," said Nichols. "[It's] almost impossible to finance anything when you're like, I have nothing to save.”
“If parents can't go to work, because they don't have childcare, or they go to work and they're afraid for their children and the childcare that they do have, we don't have productive, a productive economy," said Moline. "Our economy just can't run.”
Childcare providers and parents say they are in it together. It's a constant back and forth between rising prices and not enough providers — a frustration that is growing.
“Definitely, like defeating and like an anger that just keeps you down,” Nichols told MTN News.
Parents and caregivers say it really comes down to more funding.
Nichols told us that she was receiving help from a scholarship, but as soon as she earned more money than the scholarship allowed, she lost it.
Moline says along with more funding they need faster background check and encourages parents to go to childcareaware.org to write to Congress and share how childcare needs to be a priority.