Governor Kim Reynolds has assembled a new task force to come up with recommendations for addressing what she calls a crisis in child care.
“An issue that precedes the pandemic, but it was intensified during it,” Reynolds said.
The governor said the shortage of high quality child care is a keeping too many Iowans out of the state’s workforce.
“It’s an issue that we seem to tackle every year,” Reynolds said, “but we’ve yet to come up with the solutions that not only resolve the immediate needs of working parents, but create a long term, sustainable system.”
Emily Schmitt, general counsel for Sukup Manufacturing, is leading the governor’s task force. She said Iowa has child care “deserts” where there’s just one child care opening for three or more kids who need it.
“Unfortunately, 23% of Iowans live in a child care desert,” she said. “When you look at rural Iowa, which is where our manufacturing facility is in Sheffield, Iowa, this stat goes up to 35%.”
By one estimate, Iowa has a shortage of 350,000 child care slots statewide.
“While Iowa has the highest rate in the entire country with households of all parents working, we also face a shortage of high quality child care in every corner of the state,” Schmitt said.
The governor’s child care task force is to come up with a package of recommendations within 100 days. The latest federal data shows the number of Iowans who are working or looking for a job has dropped farther during the pandemic than the national average. Inability to find child care is one theory for the drop.