Pandemic sheds light on Iowa’s child care problems
DES MOINES, Iowa (WOI) — The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on several flaws in areas across the economy. One of those is access to child care in Iowa.
Advocates said one area that needs improvement when it comes to child care is better pay for those working in the field so there are more providers available to parents. Before the pandemic, lawmakers were on track to have bipartisan support for child care reform.
Sheila Hansen, policy director at the Child and Family Policy Center, said she's disappointed the legislature adjourned after acting on just one of the five child care bills that passed out of the House.
"They left a lot of those bills on the on the table and a lot of the opportunities there," Hansen said.
According to Iowa’s Child Care Resource and Referral Program, in five years, Iowa lost 37% of its child care programs. During the pandemic, the Iowa Department of Human Services reported 1,018 additional child care facilities shuttered.
"If you look at the 40% that closed in the last few years and then the ones that closed during this pandemic, we have some issues that we're dealing with," Hansen said.
DHS reported about a third of the facilities that close during the pandemic have reopened, but as more parents head back to work, there is concern that isn't enough.
“The economy can’t go if childcare isn’t available,” Hansen said.
Hansen said part of the answer is to pay child care providers more.
"Providers have always been paid at really low rates, and also families have trouble access in childcare because they can't afford it," Hansen said.
Gov. Kim Reynolds created an Economic Advisory Committee to discuss how to bring Iowa’s economy back online. On Thursday, that committee met and child care was one issue brought up.
“We realize the effects child care has on the workforce in Iowa,” said AJ Loss, CEO of Bush Construction and member of the Economic Advisory Committee. “When there’s a parent that must stay home to care for a child, it decreases the workforce participation.”
The committee said they'll be working to find ways to make the child care field more enticing to work in.
If you’re looking for child care, the state has set up a portal to help you find providers in your area. Click here to learn more.
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