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Idaho budget committee cuts funding to child care assistance

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI) - Idaho Lawmakers on Monday voted to approve a budget without the child care stabilization grant.

The grant would have used $36 million from The American Rescue Plan Act to support more than 3,600 Idaho child care providers and child care subsidies for low-income families.

The vote passed the JFAC 17-2 - with Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking and Rep. Colin Nash voting against the budget proposal.

Governor Brad Little had recommended that the grant money continue until the end of June. And many statewide child care providers were counting on that.

Now with the early cut, they worry that they may come up short.

Julie heaton is the director of the small world preschool and child care center in Idaho Falls. She says cutting the money off abruptly will send tuition prices skyrocketing in an already struggling economy.

"Right now, it's all it's already difficult for some parents to do that with the cost of living going up, the cost of food going up," said Heaton. "And now the cost of child care most likely going up. It's going to be difficult. A center that we know of has chosen to close in June because the funding will be gone."

Daycare workers make an average of $9 to $11 dollars an hour before the wage bonus.

Manager Melissa Ferguson says she worries about keeping her staff once the grant money stops.

"If we can't afford to pay them, my staff leaves or I end up raising my rates," said Ferguson. "If I raise my rates, then my parents have to find another facility at a lower rate. And at that point...we lose all of our our children and our business. And then I really can't afford to pay my employees."

Ferguson says  eventually those on government assistance or who cannot afford tuition will fall through the cracks.

In an emailed response to Local News 8, Gov. Brad Little's Press Secretary Madison Hardy said, “Governor Little recognizes that access to affordable, reliable childcare benefits Idaho families and the state’s economy while providing stability in today’s volatile workforce."

"As Idahoans continue to feel the effects of historic inflation, continued inability to access childcare services could significantly impact new parents’ ability to reenter the workforce and financially support their growing families. Moving forward, Governor Little will continue looking for ways to provide Idahoans the resources they need to live, work, and raise a family,” Hardy said.

Idaho Stars is an agency that works with child care providers throughout the state. The group says there are more than 75-thousand children needing care in the state.

Heaton says parents need to get involved if they don't want rates to rise. 

"Child care is already hard for parents to pay, hard for them to find, and if they can help, parents can help us just relate that message to our legislators that this is an important thing because already it's going to decline. if we if centers close, parents no longer can work and the whole economy changes."

Article Topic Follows: Idaho Politics

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.


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