WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — Aiden Sullivan, 4, bounded around the plastic slides and metal monkey bars at the playground with ease late Monday morning, constantly in motion and carried forward by his red-and-blue Spiderman sneakers. 

His mother, Valerie, watched from a short distance away. She pushed him on the swing set, as bursts of his high-pitched laughter echoed into the air. 

Sullivan cut back on her work hours recently. Aidan’s doctors diagnosed him with autism, and his parents have had little luck in securing local child care that works best for the family.

To secure funding, Intel will need to outline child care plans

Intel is about nine months into construction on semiconductor fabrication plants in Licking County. Its project in central Ohio is banking on a government package, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Biden administration last Tuesday introduced caveats to acquiring the federal funding.

Passed last year, the act allocated $280 billion to the U.S. Department of Commerce in funding for domestic computer chip manufacturing projects. Intel — one of the chipmakers looking to capitalize on the federal money — heavily advocated for the act’s passage last summer, citing its eventual New Albany plants. 

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced the first funding applications and outlined its priorities for companies that were awarded the CHIPS Act funding. 

One is to build “a skilled and diverse workforce.” To do so, the agency is asking funding applicants who want more than $150 million directly from the CHIPS Act to submit plans to offer workers “affordable, accessible, reliable, and high-quality child care.”

A spokesperson for Intel could not make anyone available for an interview, but said its benefits package includes child care programs — providing tuition discounts for local centers. 

In central Ohio, barriers already exist to child care access

Long before production at the mega-plant east of Columbus kicks off, lengthy waitlists and hefty price tags define the child care search for central Ohio parents. 

“I think the resounding answer of whether or not there are enough child care resources to support this local economy is no,” said Shannon Jones, the president and CEO of early childhood public-policy advocacy firm Groundwork Ohio.

Fifteen months ago, 59% of mothers with young children who were either not in the workforce or working part-time said they would prefer to go back and work more hours. 

In March, when Groundwork Ohio conducted the survey again, that jumped to 68% — more than two-thirds. 

For Annie Holsapple, child care costs have meant changing jobs, and even switching fields entirely.

“Recently, I started a new career in health care because it is easier with working and being a single mom and making sure that the kids are here, since I can’t afford daycare,” Holsapple said in an interview.

Holsapple works from home, and greets her children when they get off the school bus in the late afternoon. She crosses her fingers that they focus on their homework, so she can knock out another hour of work before she clocks out. 

For Sullivan, a lack of child care has meant fewer hours at work and more with her son. But thinking about proper care for Aiden and the opportunity to get back to work, she said, “That would be a dream come true.”