Republican lawmakers promise the lack of child care options in Iowa will get renewed attention during the 2022 legislative session.
Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver of Ankeny suggests expanding already existing child care centers and in-home daycares is a place to start.
“We all hear it back in our districts, especially in the rural areas,” Whitver says. “There’s a lot less options out in the rural areas and so trying to figure out whether it’s more public-private partnerships or just looking at how we regulate the industry to see if there’s ways we can improve child care access and affordability in Iowa.”
House Speaker Pat Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, says House Republicans are exploring incentives to get private businesses to take the lead.
“What can we do to incentivize businesses to maybe work with their local community? Maybe there’s a local provider that wants to expand and they can maybe be a part of that and what tax incentive could they get,” Grassley says. “…Seeing, recognizing the way the state’s recognizing that there’s more to workforce than just people showing up to work and punching a clock every day.”
House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights says House Democrats are proposing that those state incentives be targeted to small businesses. “We all know that one of the biggest problems is finding a (child care) spot in a lot of communities, especially rural areas across the state,” Konfrst says, “so working on innovation and working with businesses to try to find ways to think differently and find new ways for child care access.”
Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls of Coralville says Senate Democrats will press for an increase in the number of Iowa parents who are eligible for state child care assistance.
“We want an all-of-the-above solution,” Wahls says. “The crisis for both child care and for workforce is at a point where we shouldn’t be trying to just pick and choose or a little bite at the apple here or there. We’ve got to do the whole enchilada.”
Households with incomes of up to 145% of the federal poverty line are currently eligible for state child care assistance. Wahls and his fellow Democrats propose raising that to 200%, which means a two-parent household with an annual income just under $35,000 would qualify.
The legislators made their comments during separate interviews with Radio Iowa in December.