Iowa Parents Need Child Care; Legislators Should Do More

January 15, 2020

Des Moines Register editorial board supports the Iowa Business Council’s request to lawmakers to loosen the restrictions on Iowa’s Child Care Assistance program. Iowa has among the most restrictive eligibility requirements for Child Care Assistance, resulting in an economic environment very unfavorable to working-class parents in Iowa. Expanding the Child Care Assistance program to more parents would not only help families, it would also reinvigorate the workforce of Iowa.

As the IBC conducted forums statewide in 2019, child care concerns were continually raised as it relates to workforce development. As a result, the IBC supports efforts to further address the child care cliff effect while also increasing access to high quality, affordable child care. Addressing barriers to childcare is a workforce issue, this is because families who struggle to find safe, affordable child care struggle to stay or enter the workforce. The Iowa Business Council is asking lawmakers to loosen restrictions on who can qualify for Iowa’s Child Care Assistance program. 

The program, administered by the Iowa Department of Human Services and largely funded with federal money, helps low-income families pay for child care. To receive assistance, parents must be working, going to school or participating in a jobs program and earn below 145% of the federal poverty level — about $31,000 annually for a family of three. The average Child Care Assistance child is under 5, has one sibling and lives in a one-parent family where the parent works. 

Iowa has maintained among the lowest eligibility ceilings in the country. In fact, this state may be among the worst places to be poor and working, according to a 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office. 

The editorial board of the Des Moines Register calls for Iowa to follow in the footsteps of other states and increase eligibility for assistance. They argue that Iowa should raise the eligibility cutoff for child care assistance to 200% of the poverty level and also establish a sliding scale so parents can maintain some assistance as their earnings increase.

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