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Little Says Idaho's Economy Is Humming, But State Has Challenges In Two Areas

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Idaho Governor Brad Little spent much of his time with reporters Friday in Post Falls talking about how well the Gem State economy has weathered the Covid storm.

But he also identified two big challenges that threaten the state’s rosy scenario. One is the cost of housing.“I do think that’s the biggest damper on our continued prosperity and my goal is that our kids that are here choose to stay. It used to be because people came to Idaho because of affordable housing. That benefit is going away," he said.

Especially in areas experiencing explosive growth, such as Kootenai County.

But he says there’s another problem to overcome as more people get back to work.

Little says the state’s child care challenge cropped up early in the pandemic.

“The administrators of the hospitals were saying, ‘We need more nurses, more respiratory therapists, and they’re all home taking care of their kids,'" he said.

Little says Idaho made good investments in routing federal Cares Act money to the sectors where it was needed most. Some of it went to child care, but the governor says his state needs to do more, using federal Rescue Act money.

“I want to take this one-time money from the federal government and build a superstructure to where we have better day care," he said.

He says that means working with local communities to create child care systems that can provide plentiful, affordable day care for years to come.

“Whether it’s incenting businesses to aggregate together and say, ‘Let’s five businesses in Post Falls that are having trouble recruiting, let’s underwrite Joe’s or Sally’s Quality Daycare here and offer that as a benefit to our employees to be competitive," Little said.

He says that’s the kind of investment Idaho needs to ensure that young children are ready to learn when they enter the school system.