Child care has long been an issue for Iowa’s working families. Some businesses are now seeing their growth impeded or impacted by a lack of workforce, which once again highlights the child care crisis. Organizations like the Economic Alliance, Iowa City Area Business Partnership, US Chamber of Commerce and the Iowa Women’s Foundation have been working with business leaders to help address this issue so parents can get back to work.
In response to Iowa’s workforce challenges, in March Governor Kim Reynolds created the Iowa Child Care Task Force to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the child care shortage and barrier to work in Iowa. Our region was well-represented with the appointment of Jennifer Banta, the Business Partnership’s Vice President of Advocacy and Community Development to this group.
The task force, made up of 18 people from throughout the state representing non-profits, community organizations, child care providers, and local government, recently provided Gov. Reynolds a list of recommendations to address Iowa’s child care crisis. They gave Reynolds a total of 15 recommendations among four broad categories. The broad categories, each with their respective policy recommendations, are as follows:
- Child Care Solutions for Businesses
- Support for Child Care Providers
- Quality Child Care for Families
- Investing in the Child Care Workforce
On November 3, Governor Reynolds announced key initiatives and grants to address the child care shortage and to aid the continuing economic recovery:
- Implementation of a childcare management system: This statewide, web-based platform will enable providers to leverage a shared services model for many business operations. This system will be available in 2022.
- Creation of a “Best Place for Working Parents” designation: This designation will recognize employers that go above and beyond to accommodate their employees with children. The new, public designation will help job seekers quickly identify family-friendly employers and will encourage businesses to invest in childcare. This program will begin in January 2022.
- Additional $10 million in funding for the Child Care Challenge Grant Program: To support the expansion of existing childcare facilities or construction of new centers that will increase the number of childcare slots available to Iowa families, Iowa Workforce Development, in collaboration with the Department of Human Services, has launched another round of funding for the Childcare Challenge Grant Program, available today.
- $100,000 for integrated model of child care and preschool learning opportunities: The Iowa Department of Education, through ESSER III funds, is making available $100,000for grants that will advance planning efforts for blended childcare and preschool learning opportunities.
- $200 million for funding stabilization grants for financial loss due to the pandemic: The Iowa Department of Human Services is providing up to $200million in federal funding to assist eligible childcare providers who can verify financial loss due to the pandemic. This will ensure that Iowa providers are stable, can support expansion, and continue to serve the needs of Iowa’s working families. Applications to this grant have not yet opened.
Governor Reynolds is expected to continue to focus on child care solutions when the Iowa legislature convenes in January. The Economic Alliance and Business Partnership advocacy on workforce solutions, including addressing child care, remain the focus of our work in 2022. Jennifer Banta of the Iowa City Area Business Partnership contributed to this story.