JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — While the Missouri Chamber of Commerce is celebrating a big milestone, they also want stakeholders to know crime and the lack of childcare is affecting Missouri’s economy. 

According to the chamber, more than 30% of parents in Missouri have left a job or passed on an opportunity in the past year because of childcare. At the same time, Missouri has the fourth highest rate of gun deaths in the country. Missouri Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan Mehan said it’s hurting the state’s business industry. 

“If we can address that problem, that challenge, we will be much better than other states,” Mehan said during the Chamber’s 100th anniversary celebration. “We had a company in downtown St. Louis, across the street from Busch Stadium, say, ‘we’re taking fire on the fourth floor.’ Let that sink in, ‘we’re taking fire on the fourth floor.'”

The Show-Me State is a top 10 state for a host of undesirable crime measures. Missouri also ranks sixth in violent crime per capita and ninth-highest in property crimes per person. It’s a top concern for businesses in Missouri, but it’s not only crime affecting the state’s economy. 

“Childcare isn’t just an issue for parents, it’s an issue for businesses as well,” Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City, said. 

Mehan said during Thursday’s event, businesses across the state are having a hard time finding workers. 

“There’s a lot of people out there that have to sacrifice work to make sure they are taking care of their kids,” Mehan said. “We’re trying to put programs in place and to have the state step up and have incentives for employers and others to have childcare programs.”

During his annual State of the State address in January, Gov. Mike Parson asked for nearly $80 million in childcare incentives. According to the chamber, the state’s economy lost out on more than $1.3 billion last year due to a lack of childcare. 

“The Chamber of Commerce are the heart and soul of small communities, large communities and they really are the ones that are the driving force behind the state of Missouri,” Parson said during the chamber’s celebration. 

In a study done last year by the chamber, the greatest need for a parent is to find someone to watch their child when he or she is a toddler or infant, but because it’s so hard to find, parents are leaving their jobs.

Senate Leadership said this type of investment is important for all Missourians. 

“Childcare, workforce development, infrastructure, these aren’t things that have Rs [Republicans] and Ds [Democrats] behind their name, they are just things that matter to a vast majority of the people of Missouri,” Senate President Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said. 

The House already passed tax credits for childcare this session. That bill is now waiting to be debated in the Senate. This past week the upper chamber tried approving it’s own version of incentives for childcare providers and employers, but after some disagreements on the floor, the bill was laid over, ending debate. 

Here are some of the legislative priorities for the chamber this session: 

  • Deploy evidence-based and hot spot approaches to crime reduction
  • increase and protect tools to support policing
  • Address substance misuse and mental health 
  • Reduce recidivism among those on probation or parole 
  • Improve training and employment opportunities for incarcerated individuals 
  • Increase public safety staffing
  • Increase prosecutorial consistency and transparency 

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce says it also supports the provision of allowing a special prosecutor to come in and help cities and counties who have a backlog of cases, like in St. Louis, where the Circuit Attorney’s Office says there are roughly 3,500 that cases that have not yet been prosecuted.