116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Child care providers could ask families to pay the difference between the state’s child care assistance rate and what a center would normally charge under legislation on its way to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk.
Statehouse Republicans who pitched and approved the proposal say it would encourage child care providers to accept more families who use the state assistance program, which pays only 50 to 75 percent of the market rate, according to a state report.
If families would be willing to pay the difference between the state assistance and market rate, more child care centers will accept families on the assistance program, Republicans argued.
“It allows families to work with child care providers,” Sen. Mark Lofgren, a Republican from Muscatine, said during debate Monday in the Iowa Senate.
House File 2127 says that families and the provider would have to agree in writing to any extra payments in advance.
Democrats argued the proposal will just make child care more expensive for low-income Iowa families who use the state assistance program.
“These families do not have the ability to pay extra,” said Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott, a Democrat from Windsor Heights.
Nearly 1 in 4 Iowans live in a child care desert, including nearly 35 percent of rural Iowans, according to a report from the task force assigned by Reynolds to examine Iowa’s child care needs and potential solutions. And the average monthly cost of child care in Iowa, $1,031, is more than the cost of housing for the average Iowa family, the report said.
Democrats said Monday that the better remedy is to put more state funding into the assistance program, which would increase the reimbursement rate to providers.
“The best way to help child care providers and the family is to raise the reimbursement rate and the number of families that get in the program,” said Sen. Claire Celsi, a Democrat from Des Moines. “It’s just wrongheaded to think this is going to help. … This isn’t going to get more people into the program. This isn’t going to get more people using the subsidies.”
Sen. Carrie Koelker, a Republican from Dyersville, argued that state taxpayers should not be expected to pay for all of Iowa’s child care access and affordability issues.
The proposal previously passed the Iowa House and on Monday passed the Senate. Both votes were mostly party-line, with Republicans supporting and most Democrats opposing.
It now goes to Reynolds, who is likely to sign it into law, given it was one of the recommendations of her task force.
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