The following is a legislative update from State Senator Amanda Ragan, representing Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties:
Senate Democrats have proposed a COVID Recovery Plan to help Iowans and get our state back on track. It addresses many long-standing needs that have become critical over the last year.
Access to affordable child care is a top concern. Child care is a necessity for working parents everywhere, but even more so in Iowa. Over 70% of Iowa families with young children have all available parents in the labor force.
In addition, the high price of child care forces many families to make tough choices, including compromising on quality of care and making career sacrifices that hurt their pocketbook.
The pandemic has made access to affordable child care even more challenging because public health measures require additional protocols at child care facilities and Iowans face extra logistics to ensure the safety of their families.
SF 177 is designed to help Iowa families and child care providers. It would increase income eligibility for child care assistance over the next five years. This would allow more parents to work, knowing their children are getting high-quality care. Organizations such as the United Way recommend increasing eligibility for child care subsidies because it helps more families reach self-sufficiency.
SF 177 also updates reimbursement rates for child care providers so that they are adequately compensated for working with families that receive assistance.
Other initiatives that can help meet the needs of children, working parents and employers include:
* Expanding Child and Dependent Care Tax Credits. I support a proposal to increase the size of the credit for many Iowans and make more Iowans eligible to receive the credit.
* Allowing school districts to use school infrastructure dollars<https://educateiowa.gov/pk-12/school-facilities/funding/secure-advanced-vision-education-save> to expand preschool offerings (SF 65<https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=89&ba=SF65>).
* Increasing per-pupil funding for preschool students and developing full-day preschool and related services for families (SF 189<https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=89&ba=SF189>).
* Providing $3 million in new money to the Child Care Challenge Program<http://www.futurereadyiowa.gov/childcarechallenge>, which helps expand local child care options (SF 186<https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=89&ba=SF186>).
Access to child care and preschool is integral to our COVID Recovery Plan because it can boost the success of children, families, employers and communities—helping us to build back better for the long run.