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Iowa faces a workforce shortage and over the last several sessions, House Republicans have made it a priority to address this challenge.

Over the years, legislators have worked in a bipartisan way to pass the Future Ready Iowa Act and Last Dollar Scholarship program to help Iowans access career training programs and advance in their careers.

The next step to ease Iowa’s worker shortage is addressing the issue of child care.

My fellow lawmakers and I have introduced a robust package of legislation this session to improve child care for Iowa families. Several committees have advanced common-sense solutions to make child care more affordable for families, increase access to providers, incentivize businesses to offer and expand child care to their employees, and address the “cliff effect” by easing Iowans off of government child care assistance programs.

These bills not only offer public sector solutions, they also engage the business community and create public-private partnerships to help solve this challenge.

Affordability for Families

The high cost of child care is often a major problem for many families struggling to get by. Oftentimes, one parent is forced to stay at home and take care of children, not by choice but due to the unaffordable costs of daycare. This forces many Iowans out of the workforce at a time when businesses are struggling to find more employees.

During the 2019 session, legislators worked to reduce these high costs by doubling the income eligibility limit and expanding the Child Care Tax Credit to more families. This tax credit is targeted towards middle-class families to lower their tax burden and provide more opportunities for Iowans to join the workforce and grow our economy.

In her Condition of the State address, Governor Reynolds endorsed this plan and called on the Legislature to pass this expansion during the 2020 session. We are continuing to work with the Senate to enact this into law and provide relief to Iowa families.

Greater Access to Providers

One of the biggest barriers that parents often face is finding available child care in their area. Between 2018 and 2019, Iowa saw a reduction of 18 licensed child care centers, 140 child development homes, and 99 unregistered homes that accept child care assistance.

When providers don’t have enough open slots, parents are forced to put their children who need care on a waitlist and left in a lurch

To address this problem, House Republicans have passed legislation that will increase child care assistance rates to encourage providers to participate in the program, create additional slots for children, and increase access to affordable child care.

Engaging the Business Community

Iowa’s unemployment rate is at record lows, and while that news is welcome, it has created challenges for employers.

Iowa faces a workforce shortage at a time when Iowa businesses are desperate to find workers and fill open jobs.

An issue that intensifies this problem is a lack of affordable child care options in our state.

When a parent is forced to stay at home to care for their children out of economic necessity, that is a serious issue that requires solutions. Iowa’s job creators recognize that a lack of affordable child care is an issue that hurts families’ pocketbooks and holds back our economy. In several communities around the state, local leaders and businesses have worked together to form public-private-partnerships to offer daycare to employees and families in the community.

These partnerships have seen great success which is why lawmakers have introduced several pieces of legislation this session to build on these efforts and incentivize local businesses to offer child care to employees and their communities.

Address the Cliff Effect

A final piece of the House Republican child care package removes the ceiling on Iowan’s ability to be successful by addressing the “cliff effect” that many families face.

The cliff effect occurs when an individual is stuck in welfare dependency and is limited in their ability to take a raise or promotion at work for fear of losing their benefits.

Lawmakers worked tirelessly to develop and pass a plan that helps reduce the impact of the cliff effect by providing Iowans with an off-ramp so that benefits aren’t removed all at once.

This plan will allow Iowans to advance in their careers while gradually easing their way off of government programs and towards self-sufficiency.

Author: Brian Lohse