With most of the county fairs over, the Iowa State Fair is right around the corner! I always enjoy the State Fair because it provides a huge opportunity for our agriculture community to showcase their hard work to Iowans from all across the state. We are lucky to have one of the best, if not THE best, State Fairs in the country. For a full listing of concerts, events, and activities, visit IowaStateFair.org.
Affordable, safe, and reliable child care is a topic that concerns the vast majority of Iowa families. The Iowa Department of Human Services estimates that a family in Iowa earning the median income of about $65,000 per year, devotes between 10-15% of the pre-tax salary to child care. Oftentimes, these costs exceed more than $1,000 per month for many families. And the high costs aren’t the only factor that has parents worrying. In many rural parts of the state, a shortage of providers is creating a significant access problem as well.
Reliable child care isn’t just important for families, it is also critical for businesses who are desperate to find additional workers. Iowa has too many unfilled jobs for people to stay out of the workforce, but far too often the high cost of child care forces one parent to stay home and take care of their children. In an effort to recruit and retain talent, some employers have begun offering on-site child care to their employees for free or at a low cost. Oftentimes, these businesses are able to partner with their local community to serve non-employees as well. This type of creative partnership addresses both affordability and access.
The Legislature is aware of many of these challenges and is actively working towards solutions that support Iowans. During the 2019 legislative session, the House passed legislation that would help working families better afford child care through an existing tax credit program.
Currently, families making less than $45,000 are eligible to receive a tax credit towards eligible child care expenses like daycare. Under our bill, the income limit would have doubled to $90,000, expanding the credit to thousands of additional families. This bill passed the House on a wide bipartisan vote of 97-1. While it was not taken up by the Senate this year, I am hopeful that they will consider it next session.
Many people have additional ideas to tackle this issue ranging from incentives for businesses who offer child care to employees, repurposing existing facilities to include a child care area, and other innovative concepts. Several members are already researching this issue and reviewing what other states are doing to make child care safe, accessible, and affordable for families.
As we prepare for the 2020 session, I am looking forward to exploring additional ways to improve child care in Iowa. This is a major topic of interest for many Iowans and it will require innovative ideas. I anticipate a thorough discussion next year!
If you have ideas for how we can make child care in Iowa safer, more affordable, more readily available, or reliable, feel free to reach out and share.