The Iowa House has passed five bills related to increasing access to childcare.
Legislators overwhelmingly passed the Republican-sponsored bills on Monday evening that seek to address Iowa’s childcare affordability and accessibility issues by offering tax credits and grants aimed at increasing the workforce and number of childcare slots.
The bills also make adjustments to the state’s childcare assistance program’s eligibility requirements and provider reimbursement rates.
"Lack of affordable, safe childcare is a workforce issue," said Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, who sponsored three of the bills. "Parents cannot enter the workforce without childcare. It is an issue in all of our communities."
Childcare has been a major issue this legislative session as nearly a quarter of Iowans are estimated to live in a childcare desert and the annual cost of care is estimated to be more than $10,000 a year.
A recent report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation estimated the Iowa economy loses close to $1 billion every year due to child care issues.
But some Democrats questioned whether the legislation goes far enough.
Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, said she was concerned a bill that creates a matching grant program aimed at growing the workforce will be able to attract the level of workers needed to fill the state shortage.
"This is a skeleton of what we might be able to do," said Winckler. "There is nothing wrong with the skeleton except we need to do so much more."
Here's a list of the bills that passed the House. They will now go on to the Senate.
- HF2600: Establishes a childcare workforce state matching grant program to help grow the childcare workforce.
- HF2270: Increases child care assistance reimbursement rates to providers.
- HF2271: Changes the definition of infant and toddler and preschool child for the purpose of childcare reimbursement rates under the state's child care assistance program.
- HF2424: Establishes a phase-out program for the state's childcare assistance program.
- HF2485: Establishes an exception for the number of children allowed at a childcare home under certain conditions.