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News Brief

Feb. 4, 2024 |  By: Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

Kentucky-inspired bill would help NE child care providers, workforce

child care

By Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

In the 2023 Nebraska Rural Poll 61% agreed there's a shortage of affordable child care in their communities, and more than 75% said their communities should do more to address this need.

Sen. John Fredrickson focused on recruiting and retaining child care providers in his priority bill, Legislative Bill 856. The Omaha Democrat said he modeled the bill after a successful law in Kentucky.

Under the measure, child care providers who work at least 20 hours a week would qualify for the federal child care subsidy for their own child's care, regardless of their income.

"We found that there are child care providers who would otherwise qualify, but because there was almost this cliff effect, their income would prohibit them from qualifying," Fredrickson observed. "This takes that out as a factor for them and allows them to qualify for their own children."

As of mid-2022, the average annual salary for full-time Nebraska child care workers was $28,000. The yearly cost of child care for a toddler in Nebraska averages $7,500 in a home-based setting, and nearly $10,500 in a child care center.

The first hearing on the bill was last Friday, but the Health and Human Services Committee has not yet taken action.

Fredrickson stressed although the income requirement for the child care subsidy would be waived, providers would still have to meet the other federal eligibility requirements. He noted the measure could have a wide-reaching impact.

"If we can attract, or even retain, 10 providers, that opens up upwards of 70 slots, so 70 different families," Fredrickson pointed out. "The potential this has for ripple effects on the economy and also on the availability of workforce is really significant."

In 2022, Sarah Vanover, now with Kentucky Youth Advocates, oversaw implementation of the Kentucky program that inspired Fredrickson's bill. Vanover said nearly 3,500 providers and 6,000 children participate, and child care directors report having lower employee turnover.

"I think that it's really important for the child care providers because they don't always get additional benefits other than an hourly wage," Vanover noted. "But this also benefits the stability of the child care program and the economic outcomes of the community. So it has a threefold benefit."

The Federal child care subsidy is for children up to the age of 13, or up to the age of 19 for children with a disability or in foster care.