House Republicans are proposing to more than double the amount of state money for so-called “challenge” grants to build or renovate space for child care centers. The grants have been available to businesses, non-profits and organizations that are retrofitting or building new child care facilities.
“I think that’s a really terrific investment and we’re seeing that in communities all across the state, the benefits of that,” says Representative Phil Thompson of Jefferson, a Republican.
House Republicans propose $3 million worth of these grants for the next state budgeting year. Representative Tracey Ehlert, a Democrat, is an early childhood instructor who has operated a child care center in Cedar Rapids. Ehlert said it’s exciting to have state grants for child care infrastructure, “but we’re still not doing anything to help our existing child cares that are already here and are struggling and are shutting down and have the ability to expand if they have more staffing.”
Increasing the number of child care slots by expanding the physical space is a goal Ehlert supports, but she said state policymakers must do more to address the worker shortage, “so we can fill our existing child care programs with staff, so that they can take the full amount of children and help with those slot shortages rather than just building bright new, shiny programs.”
The $3 million worth of Child Care Challenge grants proposed by House Republicans would be distributed, as it is now, by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Last month, the agency distributed $13 million in federal pandemic relief money to 64 current or under construction child care centers in the state.