Advocates celebrate more state support for child care

Advocates are celebrating legislative approval of $171 million — some now and some later — that will shore up state support for employment-related day care.

The program had reported a shortfall that prompted a wait list for almost 2,000 families who hoped to secure care for children as parents sought work or training.

“It is a lifeline for children and their families to keep parents working and ensure that kids get the early childhood care and opportunities they deserve,” Rep. Thuy Tran, a Democrat from Portland, said of its inclusion in the session-ending budget reconciliation measure on March 7.

“Like roads and bridges, affordable and accessible child care is necessary infrastructure that helps us reach our societal and economic goals.”

Of the total, $96 million is available once the budget bill (Senate Bill 5701) becomes law, and $75 million is at the discretion of the Emergency Board, the 20 lawmakers who decide budget matters between sessions of the full Legislature.

Candice Vickers is executive director of Family Forward Oregon, which was part of a coalition that lobbied lawmakers on Jan. 11 — weeks before the start of the legislative session — to add up to $200 million for the program.

“It is heartening to see that Oregon lawmakers have heeded our calls and made a commitment to support and stabilize this critical program for the families who rely on it,” Vickers said in a statement.

“We look forward to building on this positive news as we work toward our goal of universal child care. We have so much more work to do. In the months and years ahead we will continue to fight for full funding for ERDC to protect the stability of the 16,000 families in the program, and end the wait list that is holding back 1,900 families from participating.”

Related legislation (House Bill 4098) sets up a $2.5 million fund in the Oregon Business Development Department, which with two other state agencies will develop a plan for aiding businesses that may receive federal grants for domestic semiconductor manufacturing under the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act. The others are the Department of Early Learning and Care, and the Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Democratic Reps. Jules Walters of West Linn and Hoa Nguyen of Portland were champions of the bill. The U.S. Department of Commerce has identified the availability of child care, along with suitable workforce training programs, as measurements for successful grant applicants.

CHIPS is an acronym for Creating Helpful Incentives for Producing Semiconductors. Oregon lawmakers passed their own version of state aid for semiconductor manufacturing in the 2023 session.

Walters and Sen. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, were the bill’s chief sponsors. Hoa Nguyen spoke as co-leader of a revived Child Care Alliance.

“These legislative wins signify a step forward in our mission to ensure that no family is left behind due to a lack of child care,” Nguyen said in a post-session statement. “As we join together across diverse perspectives, we pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future where every child receives the care and early childhood education that they deserve.”

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