Lack of childcare is an impediment to employment. Governor Kim Reynolds recognizes this and in her Condition of the State speech in January 2020, made it one of her priorities. Many business organizations, also, recognize the child care desert is an important issue to address and included it as one of their legislative priorities.
The Iowa House of Representatives got right to work on this crucial issue and prior to the shutdown of the Legislature due to Covid-19 passed four important bills that addressed significant child care issues. Representative Wes Breckenridge joined his House colleagues in passing with a bipartisan effort HF2424, HF 2270, HF 2271 and HF 2600.
HF2424 addresses the cliff effect, which essentially has the potential to make families who receive Child Care Assistance ineligible when an increase in salary occurs. HF2270 and HF2271 provided significant rate increases for child care providers who accept Child Care Assistance. HF2600 created a public/private partnership to keep child care providers across Iowa and recruit new ones through a matching funds initiative.
These bills were waiting for Senate action when the Iowa Legislature reconvened on June 3, 2020. However, Senate Republicans, in their feckless wonder, failed to take up the bills for a vote.
Covid-19 had a devastating impact on child care providers in Iowa. Iowa Public Radio reports 930 licensed child care and in-home centers closed during the pandemic and one estimate says Iowa could lose half its childcare slots. Iowa Public Radio further relates the dilemma of a Polk County worker who reduced her hours because she feared if she worked too many hours she would lose her Child Care Assistance completely. She previously experienced this after receiving a small raise and saw her child care costs go from $17 a week to $180. Paying that full price would have taken half her income.
The Iowa Senate under Republican leadership failed Iowa families and Iowa daycare providers. Instead of addressing this critical child care issue Senate Republicans chose to take valuable time by debating and passing a bill imposing a 24 hour waiting period on Iowa women seeking an abortion and limiting the Iowa Secretary of State’s ability in insuring a safe avenue for Iowans to vote in the general election in November 2020.
Tragically Iowa families who need assistance and child care providers who need an increase in what they are paid will have to wait for another year.