116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CARLISLE --- New state and federal pandemic relief funding will be used to make child care in Iowa more accessible, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday as the recommendations on her child care task force were compiled in a new state report.
According to the group’s report, Iowa has the nation’s highest share of households in which all parents work, yet many families especially in rural areas do not have access to child care. Roughly 23 percent of Iowans overall — and 35 percent of rural Iowans — live in a “child care desert,” an area with a significant shortage of child care providers, according to the report.
And, at an average of more than $1,000 per month, child care is more expensive than housing costs in Iowa, according to the report.
Reynolds said the state will make available $10 million in grants for expanding current child care facilities or building new ones, and distribute $200 million in federal grants to child care facilities that suffered economically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal funding is part of the pandemic relief package that was mostly supported by Congressional Democrats and opposed by Republicans.
Speaking Wednesday at a new child care and preschool hybrid facility, Reynolds said a dearth of quality and affordable child care options in Iowa is contributing to the state’s workforce shortage.
“The pandemic … worsened an already challenging situation, and child care providers and many are still struggling because of it,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said the state also will implement a child care management system for providers to take advantage of shared services such as administrative tasks, group purchasing and professional development; and create a state designation to recognize child care employers who “go above and beyond to accommodate their employees with children.”
The task force report contains 15 recommendations designed to aid child care facilities, workers, families and businesses.
Reynolds said she will review the report to determine what steps she could take through executive action, and which will require legislative action.
“We’re going to support working families, fill in the gaps in Iowa’s child care system, and do everything that we can to unleash our state’s incredible workforce,” Reynolds said.
The report does not directly address child care worker salaries. Its only workforce recommendations are to invest in education programs for people interested in working in child care, and to reconsider staffing regulations.
The median salary for a child care worker in Iowa in 2020 was $22,260 a year, or $10.70 per hour, according to federal labor statistics.
“That’s just something that we’ll continue to look at,” Reynolds said. “It’s something that you have to balance, not only helping support those that are entering into the industry, but also looking for ways to make it affordable for parents. That’s always been the balance that we’ve had to walk.”