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Ernst Works to Address Childcare Access in Rural Iowa

Senator Ernst is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is supporting the bipartisan, bicameral Expanding Childcare in Rural America (ECRA) Act of 2023 to expand childcare access in agricultural and rural communities.

“When I’m traveling from River to River across Iowa I hear from employees and small business owners who want more childcare options in rural Iowa. Our efforts will empower childcare centers in our agriculture communities to invest in facility development and staff training opportunities to ensure quality childcare options are available to every family. Keeping my promises to take on this issue, I will continue to work with my colleagues to remove burdens on parents by expanding opportunities for providers in every corner of the state,” said Senator Ernst, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.


The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act would direct U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development to authorize and prioritize projects that address the availability, quality, and cost of childcare through the following programs:

  • The Community Facilities Program offers direct loans, loan guarantees and grants to develop or improve essential public services and facilities in communities across rural America;
  • Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training Grant offers grants to eligible public bodies and private, nonprofit organizations (such as states, counties, cities, townships, incorporated towns, villages, boroughs, authorities, districts, and Tribes located on Federal or state reservations) to provide technical assistance and/or training in support of the essential community facilities program;
  • The Business & Industry Loan Guarantee Program provides loan guarantees to commercial lenders for loans to eligible rural businesses;
  • The Rural Business Development Grant Program is a competitive grant designed to support targeted technical assistance, training, and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas that have fewer than 50 employees and less than $1 million in gross revenues;
  • The Rural Innovation Strong Economy Grant Program offers grant assistance to create and augment high-wage jobs, accelerate the formation of new businesses, support industry clusters and maximize the use of local productive assets in eligible low-income rural areas;
  • The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program provides loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) to provide microloans for microenterprise startups and growth through a Rural Microloan Revolving Fund; and provide training and technical assistance to microloan borrowers and micro entrepreneurs.

In March, Ernst, Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business Committee, also led the Child Care Small Business Investment Act, an effort to make non-profit child care providers eligible for 7(a) and 504 loan programs under the SBA, so long as they are licensed by the state and their employees have had criminal background checks. This legislation would also ensure that religiously-affiliated non-profits qualify for these loan programs.