Priority Funding Requests
Nationwide, during the pandemic, nearly 16,000 childcare programs permanently closed and 100,000 workers left the industry entirely. Utah’s child care industry would not have been able to survive the pandemic without $572 million in federal emergency dollars. However, that funding will end in June 2024.
Even before the pandemic, Utah had a 65% gap between the need for child care and the capacity of programs to provide it. People in the child care sector fear this number will drop even lower when that money is gone, warning us that Utah faces an even more dire child care crisis in the next two years.
The following funding requests include four programs that will be eliminated without support from the state. These requests will be evaluated through the legislature's appropriations process which will determine what funding is included in the budget.
Child Care Stabilization Grants, Representative Andrew Stoddard ($216 Million)
Federal Child Care Stabilization Grants have been a lifeline for Utah's child care sector. This funding will allow for a one-year extension of the stabilization grants currently received by hundreds of licensed child care providers in Utah. The grants will be reduced in October 2023 and will end in June 2024. Child care providers have indicated that the lack of ongoing stabilization funding will result in one or more of the following three outcomes: child care programs will close, tuition will be raised for families, and/or employees will have lower wages, resulting in staff turnover, program closure, and underutilization of licensed child care slots. This program is intended to prevent the catastrophic collapse of Utah's already insufficient stock of available care. Heard in the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee on 1/24/23.
Retention Incentives for Early Childhood Professionals, Representative Luz Escamilla ($38 Million)
In 2022, Utah's Office of Child Care issued $2,000 bonuses to eligible workers serving in child care positions to provide recognition for their critical work throughout the COVID pandemic and to improve retention within the field. This funding request allows for the continuation of this incentive program for an additional two years, while structural reforms of the sector are pursued. This funding is intended to increase child care worker retention statewide among licensed child care providers and prevent program closures that will negatively impact Utah families. Additionally, this funding will allow child care settings to remain fully staffed to accommodate as many children as state licensing permits. Approximately 9,500 child care professionals will receive retention incentives through this program.
Regional Child Care Development Grants, Representative Ashlee Matthews ($2.1 Million)
Both rural and urban Utah communities are suffering from a lack of child care. Through federal funding, Utah's six Regional Care about Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies have supported new programs for rural outreach, small business training, start-up grants, and professional development. Some agencies have hired outreach coordinators while others have created business training cohorts. This funding will continue the grants for another three years so the agencies can continue to offer programming that works to expand child care access and improve care. Heard in the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee on 1/20/23.
Child Care Licensing-Related Fees, Representative Ashlee Matthews ($3 Million)
With COVID-relief funding the Office of Child Care Licensing has been able to waive costs associated with licensing in order to lessen the barriers to expanding, maintaining, and opening new child care programs. This funding will extend this fee coverage for another three years as the state tackles the child care crisis. This funding helps reduce the cost burden on regulated child care providers, those renewing licenses, and those seeking a license to start a child care business. With much of Utah being a child care desert, this funding will promote growth in the market by lessening the barriers for these small business owners. Making licensure affordable also promotes safer learning environments. Heard in the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee on 1/20/23.
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