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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Bill aims to ease child care ‘deserts’ in rural areas

Herrera Beutler joins bipartisan group in introducing measure

By Calley Hair, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 4, 2019, 7:44pm

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, joined a bipartisan group of legislators introducing a bill aimed at easing child care “deserts” in rural areas.

Introduced on Friday, the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act would provide grants to states, who in turn would help pay to train and retain child care workers and build facilities in regions lacking enough programs to meet the needs of their population.

Herrera Beutler was joined by Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., as well as Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

“As the demand for child care continues to increase across Southwest Washington, the number of quality care providers has dwindled, setting up a crisis for working families who are struggling to find and afford care for their kids,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release.

“I’m pleased we’re taking a step in Congress with this bipartisan legislation to support working parents by helping increase availability and affordability of child care.”

According to ChildCare Aware of Washington, a nonprofit group advocating for more high-quality child care, Washington is among the top five most expensive states to place an infant or a toddler in a child care program.

A 2017 report in The Columbian found that the number of pre-kindergarten aged children in Clark County vastly outstripped the spots available in licensed child care programs — about 29,600 children younger than 5 years old were competing for a maximum of 6,229 slots in a child care program, a ratio of nearly five kids per open spot in Clark County.

The bill would aim to address the shortfall of both facilities and professionals. If implemented, the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act would provide competitive grants to states in support of the education, training or retention of workers in child care. The grants could also go toward building or expanding facilities in areas identified as lacking enough child care services.

Applicants would need to show how their project would increase availability and affordability of child care, including during non-traditional 9 to 5 hours, according to the press release.

The bill’s introduction comes just three days after Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., reintroduced the Child Care For Working Families Act, which would cap the amount that families pay out-of-pocket for child care at 7 percent of their household income. First introduced in September 2017, the proposed bill lacked support from the right and died in a then-Republican controlled Congress.

Columbian staff writer