Ernst Works to Increase Investment in Child Care

Building on her efforts for Iowa’s child care community, the Iowa senator introduced legislation to increase access to federal funding for child care development

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a mom and leader on the issue of child care, is continuing her work to increase access to quality, affordable child care for moms and dads in Iowa. Senator Ernst’s legislation would increase access to federal funding for child care development. The bill, the Affordable Child Care for Economic Strategies and Success (ACCESS) Act, would allow communities and public-private partnerships to use grants through the Department of Commerce to increase access to child care through investment in our child care workforce and infrastructure.
“When parents can’t access child care, there’s a ripple effect in the economy. Iowa has been struggling with a child care crisis for too long, and we need to continue to find ways to address the needs of our parents," said Senator Ernst. "By encouraging public-private partnerships to expand access to child care, this legislation would provide more opportunities for Iowa families and help our state’s economy grow.”
The ACCESS Act is supported by First Five Years Fund, Black Hawk County Child Care Coalition, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Dubuque Chamber of Commerce, Exceptional Persons, Inc. (Child Care Resource and Referral of NE Iowa host agency), Grow Cedar Valley,  Jackson County Economic Alliance, and Save the Children Action Network (SCAN). Representatives Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) and Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
"I’ve heard from Iowa businesses again and again about how childcare is one of the biggest challenges they have when it comes to recruiting and retaining talented employees,” said Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer. "As we strive to address and recover from the coronavirus pandemic, we must be planning for long-term economic growth. Now more than ever, high-quality, affordable childcare for hard-working families is essential to unlocking economic opportunity and growth."
"For too long, parents in southern Minnesota and across America have been burdened with high costs for preschools, long waitlists and few options for childcare services,” said Congressman Jim Hagedorn (R-MN). "This legislation is a major step in the right direction to incentivizing and expanding investments in childcare facilities that will increase competition, spur growth and increase access to affordable childcare over the long haul." 
Earlier this month, Senator Ernst unveiled a new proposal to provide additional assistance for child care providers in Iowa, and across the country, during COVID-19. Ernst’s bill was included in the new COVID-19 relief package, the HEALS Act, that was released earlier this week.
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.