Jane Bloomingdale

The Iowa House has approved a series of bills that provide state grants and tax grants in hopes of boosting access to child care.

One bill would set up a tax credit for businesses that provide child care benefits for employees. Representative Jane Bloomingdale of Northwood said it address two of the state’s major problems — a shortage of workers and a lack of child care options for parents who want to work.

“By providing child care, it helps the employer retain and recruit workers,” she said, “and it helps the employees go back to work when they know they have affordable and reliable child care.”

Officials say 81 Iowa child care centers have closed during the pandemic and another bill would let in-home child care providers that are registered with the state care for one more school-aged child.

A bill that passed the House unanimously would significantly raise the income threshold for the state’s child care assistance program. About 25,000 Iowa children who live in low-income households with parents who work or go to school are covered by the program. Representative Lindsay James of Dubuque said some working parents turn down extra hours or raises because they’ll no longer quality and cannot afford to pay for child care on their own.

“I heard especially from single moms that they were falling off the cliff when it came to their child care benefits that our state offers because they’re getting a higher income in their jobs,” James said.

Each of the child care related bills passed the House with bipartisan support.