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Two concerning circumstances continue to persist in Racine County – specifically in the City of Racine. There continues to be a shortage of workers with signs all around the city posted about job openings. At the same time, figures from the state released last week indicate that Racine’s jobless rate for August rose from 4.7% last year to 5.8% this August.

At 5.8%, that again puts Racine again at the top of the state’s 33 cities and villages tracked by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

In a recent Editorial Board visit Racine County Executive Jonathon Delagrave and other county officials brought up the unemployment rate and discussed some of the obstacles that workers face — such as child care.

The state’s Wisconsin Shares program plays a big role in helping many families be able to work. The program helps supplement the cost of child care to allow parents to go to work, school or participate in certain job training program.

Families can qualify for child care subsidies if they make under 185% of the federal poverty level and they can stay on the program even as they make additional money — up to 80% of the state median income.

But at 80% of the state median income, the family would need to drop off of the program, essentially creating a cliff effect.

That cliff effect can be the obstacle that stands in the way for some families.

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At the same time, the state’s child care subsidy program has been underutilized in recent years, with fewer people using the program than are eligible, according to Tom McCarthy, a spokesman for the Department of Children and Families.

He explained there are all sorts of reasons for people not using it. Some of the common reasons are that the child care center where they want to go doesn’t accept Wisconsin Shares or it doesn’t have any openings.

In other cases, the location that accepts Shares is too far away and families cannot get there.

There can be varying reasons for why a center doesn’t accept the Shares program. But one big reason is the amount of regulations.

McCarthy said the state is always evaluating rules to strike a balance and keep children safe.

With the unemployment rate and the worker crisis arising throughout the nation, Wisconsin Shares should be looked at closely to ensure it is truly helping families go back to work.

The good news from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is that many people are re-entering the workforce. That has for now increased the jobless rate, hopefully temporarily, because many people previously weren’t even looking for work and weren’t included in the state number.

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