WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a mom and a longtime advocate for expanding access to child care, is teaming up with fellow Iowa lawmaker Representative Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) in an effort to increase the availability of federal funding for child care development. Representative Hinson will be introducing the House companion legislation tomorrow.
The ACCESS Act—or the Affordable Child Care for Economic Strategies and Success Act—would allow communities and public-private partnerships to use grants through the Department of Commerce to increase access to child care.
“As so many Iowa parents know, our state faced a child care crisis even before the pandemic, and COVID has just made those challenges worse—especially in our most rural areas, like where I grew up and still live today,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “Now is the time to invest in Iowa’s child care industry so we can expand access to care for families across our state. By allowing for greater access to federal resources, this legislation will encourage more public-private partnerships to invest and grow child care options for Iowa’s working families.”
“Many Iowans struggle to access quality child care options, particularly in rural communities. As we work to rebuild our economy, it is incredibly important that we prioritize expanding trustworthy child care options for working families in Iowa. My predecessor, Congresswoman Finkenauer, introduced this legislation in the 116th Congress alongside Senator Ernst, and I am glad to re-introduce this bill with Senator Ernst this year,” said Representative Hinson.
“Child care is essential for children, families, and America’s long-term economic success, and we need innovative solutions like the ACCESS Act to ensure communities have the resources they need to build and strengthen child care systems that work for families and contribute to our economic recovery after this pandemic,” said First Five Years Fund (FFYF) Executive Director Sarah Rittling. “FFYF thanks Senator Ernst for her continued leadership and commitment to ensuring all Americans who need it have access to the quality early learning opportunities that support children’s healthy development and allow parents to pursue greater economic security for their families.”
“The ACCESS Act will provide additional funding to support communities as they move forward planning a new or expansion child care project,” said Dan Levi, Black Hawk Child Care Coalition Co-Founder.
The ACCESS Act has broad support from Iowans and Iowa community groups, like the Cedar Rapids Economic Alliance, Cedar Valley Growth, the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce, the Black Hawk County Child Care Coalition, Exceptional Persons, Inc., and Save the Children Action Network.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Ernst has pushed to help Iowa families in several ways, including helping to secure nearly $32 million
for Iowa’s child care workers and providers through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
In February, while visiting a public-private partnership-created child care center in Glidden, Iowa on her 99 County Tour, Ernst announced her support for the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act
, which would expand competitive grants to states like Iowa to address child care “deserts” and help fund projects like the one she visited.
Earlier this week, Ernst led a bipartisan, bicameral
effort that that would increase the amount of tax-free dollars working families and their employers can set aside to use toward child and dependent care expenses.