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New report, funding address child care issues

New report, funding address child care issues

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New report, funding address child care issues

Gov. Kim Reynolds

CARLISLE --- New state and federal funding is being made available to make child care in Iowa more accessible, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday as the recommendations on her child care task force were compiled in a new state report.

According to the task force report, Iowa has the nation’s highest share of households in which all parents work, but many families do not have access to child care, especially in rural areas of the state. Roughly 23% of Iowans — and 35% of rural Iowans — live in a so-called child care desert, which is an area with a shortage of child care providers, according to the report.

And, at an average of more than $1,000 per month, child care is more expensive than housing in Iowa, according to the report.

Reynolds said the state will make available $10 million in grants for expanding current or building new child care facilities, and distribute $200 million in federal grants to child care facilities that have suffered economically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal funding is part of the pandemic relief package that was mostly supported by Congressional Democrats and opposed by Republicans.

Speaking at a new child care and preschool hybrid facility, Reynolds said a dearth of quality and affordable child care options in Iowa is contributing to the state’s workforce shortage.

“The pandemic … worsened an already challenging situation, and child care providers and many are still struggling because of it,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said the state also will implement a child care management system for providers to take advantage of shared services such as administrative tasks, group purchasing, and professional development; and create a state designation to recognize child care employers that “go above and beyond to accommodate their employees with children.”

The task force report contains 15 recommendations designed to aid child care facilities, workers, families and businesses.

Reynolds said she will review the report to determine what steps she could take through executive action, and which will require legislative proposals.

“We’re going to support working families, fill in the gaps in Iowa’s child care system, and do everything that we can to unleash our state’s incredible workforce,” Reynolds said.

The task force report does not directly address child care worker salaries. Its only workforce recommendations are to invest in education programs for people interested in working in child care, and to reconsider staffing regulations.

The median salary for a child care worker in Iowa in 2020 was $22,260, or $10.70 per hour, according to federal labor statistics.

“That’s just something that we’ll continue to look at,” Reynolds said. “It’s something that you have to balance, not only helping support those that are entering into the industry, but also looking for ways to make it affordable for parents. That’s always been the balance that we’ve had to walk.”

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