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Ernst Unveils New Proposal to Support Iowa’s Child Care Providers, Families

RED OAK, Iowa— U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is continuing her work to support Iowa’s working families and increase access to child care. Today, along with the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ernst unveiled a new proposal to provide assistance for child care providers in Iowa, and across the country, so they can continue to offer critical, affordable services for working moms and dads during COVID-19.

“Iowa families depend on the survival of our existing child care providers. In my conversations with our moms and dads and providers across the state, I’ve heard consistently—even before COVID-19—about the struggle to find quality, affordable child care, and I’ve worked to fix that,” said Senator Ernst. “Unfortunately, this pandemic has only made our child care crisis worse. In addition to the support we helped secure in the CARES Act, this new proposal will help relieve anxiety for families by ensuring our kids are in safe environments and stabilizing the child care sector as a whole.”

“Child care is a critical part to getting our country back to work. Two-thirds of children in the U.S. under age 6 have parents in the workforce, and those parents can’t go to work if they don’t have someone to take care of their children safely during the day. I’m urging other senators to support Sen. Ernst's proposal to provide more support to child care providers who have been severely harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak so they can continue to provide critical services to working parents,” said Chairman Alexander.

“Without question, the survival of the child care industry will be central to the success of America’s overall economic recovery from this crisis,” said First Five Years Fund (FFYF) Executive Director Sarah Rittling. “The pandemic has exacerbated an already difficult situation for families and providers, and surfaced the truly essential role that child care plays in this country. Dedicated efforts by Congress are necessary to ensuring child care providers of all sizes are not forced to close their doors, but instead have the means necessary to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for their staff and the children in their care.  We are grateful to Senator Ernst for her leadership in introducing this legislation and in recognizing the needs of families and providers.  We are hopeful that Congressional leaders will include a child care stabilization fund in the upcoming COVID-19 relief package, as any meaningful efforts to aid America’s economic recovery will be immediately undermined if the child care industry is allowed to collapse.”

"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating financial effect on Iowa child care providers. For parents to get back to work and for Iowa's economy to recover, it's critical that Iowa child care providers survive to serve hard-working Iowa families today and into the future. We thank Senator Ernst for listening to Iowa's child care providers and her leadership in providing essential financial assistance to help Iowa providers meet significantly increased costs during this pandemic so they may continue to welcome children into a safe and healthy environment," said Stephanie Sturdevant-Ward, Regional Vice President for KinderCare Education, overseeing KinderCare's 11 nationally accredited Iowa centers (Waukee, IA).

"Child care programs are in dire need of financial assistance if they are to open and remain open, care for children safely, and provide their crucial services to working parents in the months ahead. We applaud Sen. Ernst for her leadership in building off the CARES Act and proposing the Back to Work Child Care Grants Act, which would deliver critical funding for the child care market and promote our nation's economic recovery," Michele Stockwell, Executive Director, Bipartisan Policy Center Action.

The Back to Work Child Care Grants Act of 2020 supports the economic recovery and helps parents go back to work by providing:

  • Critical resources to help child care providers reopen and stay open
    • Provides 9-month financial assistance for providers to open, welcome children safely, and ensure a robust child care sector is available for families
    • Allows states to design state-specific plans to support child care centers, operators, providers in their state
    • Sends funds to child care providers more quickly without administrative red tape
    • Safe environments for children
      • Requires all providers receiving assistance to follow all state and local health and safety guidelines
      • Requires states to ensure a diverse field of child care setting options for parents, including center-based, family child care, and faith-based options

For a one-pager on the proposal, click HERE.

Since the onset of this pandemic, Senator Ernst has pushed to help Iowa families in several ways. She helped secure nearly $32 million for Iowa’s child care workers and providers through the CCDBG program, and has since called on the Senate to provide additional support in future COVID-19 relief legislation.

As a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, Ernst fought to make sure that Iowa’s child care providers could access the Paycheck Protection Program. In addition Ernst supported funding in the relief packages for Head Start, family violence prevention and services, runaway and homeless youth programs, child welfare services, and child nutrition programs.

Ernst is also working on bipartisan legislation that would allow parents with a newborn child to claim an additional $500 in direct financial assistance provided through the CARES Act right away instead of waiting until they receive their tax return next year.

Outside of the COVID-19 relief packages, Ernst has put forward bipartisan legislation to expand access to quality, affordable child care by allowing non-profit child care providers to utilize programs offered by the Small Business Administration. In addition, Ernst has also been working across the aisle to increase access to licensed child care services in child care deserts through state grants that would cover some of the cost of programs to support training for caregivers and projects to build, expand, or renovate child care facilities.