Childcare needed

The importance of the industry has been highlighted in the pandemic recession, as child care centers and providers faced new restrictions and risks of providing care in Oregon communities.

Rep. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie), Rep. Courtney Neron (D-Washington County), Rep. Jack Zika (R-Redmond), and Sen. Kathleen Taylor (D-Milwaukie) are leading an effort to pass major improvements for Oregon’s public child care system, the Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program, and streamline child care and early learning programs administration in a new division to ensure greater access and stability.

HB 3073 focuses on early childhood program integration that will allow for more seamless coordination and coverage of services. HB 3073 will also empower the state to be strategic about allocating an influx of federal funds and purchasing child care to rebuild the sector. The bill will also provide immediate relief to Oregon’s most vulnerable families and better support child care providers caring for families in Oregon’s ERDC program.

The bill outlines a number of improvements to the way ERDC works, including:

  • Ensuring affordability for parents by capping copays to no more than 7% of a family's income.
  • Increasing the flexibility of the program for parents to utilize their child care assistance outside of just working hours.
  • Expanding access to all income-eligible children and families, regardless of documentation status.
  • Protecting eligibility for children for at least one year, increasing financial stability for providers and continuity of care for children.
  • Providing financial stability to providers by paying based on enrollment—not attendance, protecting eligibility for children for at least one year, setting rates for providers based on the true cost of care.

“As legislator-parents we know firsthand how difficult it is to navigate Oregon’s child care crisis,” says Representative Karin Power. “I have a preschooler and an infant and have always been a working parent. I deeply, deeply understand that child care is essential infrastructure that our state must invest in now.”

Rep. Zika says this is also an important issue for businesses across the state.

 “We’re seeing businesses, both small and large, reporting absenteeism, turnover, and staff shortages due to the lack of available child care in their region,” says Rep. Zika. “Child care closures are undermining Oregon’s economic recovery. We desperately need more child care options for working families throughout Oregon, and especially in Central Oregon and our rural communities. My wife, Zanthel, and I have always struggled to find adequate child care. It’s a big part of why I ran for office, and one of the issues I hear about most from my constituents.”

Representative Courtney Neron says the issue is both deeply important to her not only as a mother, but also as a former educator.

“As a teacher and a parent, I know how critical it is for kids to have high-quality early childhood nurturing and education that starts not at age three or four, but from birth,” Rep. Neron explains. “So much brain development happens between ages 0-5. We’re doing families and our communities a great disservice if we are not offering them high quality care options during those years.”

Senator Kathleen Taylor says HB 3073 will make our public child care system more “efficient and effective.”

“Our state child care system is overly complicated. These changes to our system are needed to better serve people,” says Sen. Taylor, who also has school age children. “HB 3073 will better position us to utilize the federal funding for child care that will be coming to Oregon from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in an effective way. We must make passing this bill a priority.”

HB 3073 received universal, bipartisan support from Oregon’s House Committee on Early Childhood early in the Legislative session and also cleared Oregon’s House Rules Committee. It is now on its way to Oregon’s Joint Committee on Ways & Means before being voted on by the House and Senate.

The bill’s chief sponsors include Rep. Teresa Alonso León (D-Woodburn), Rep. Bobby Levy (R-La Grande, Enterprise, Echo) and Rep. Greg Smith (R-Umatilla, Morrow, Gilliam, Sherman & Wasco Counties) in addition to Reps. Zika, Power, Neron and Sen. Taylor. Its regular sponsors include Reps. Campos, Dexter, Fahey, Grayber, Helm, Holvey, Hudson, Kropf, Leif, Lively, Marsh, Owens, Pham, Prusak, Reynolds, Ruiz, Schouten, Brock Smith, Sollman, Valderrama, Wilde, and Williams.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that a reliable child care system is core to economic strength and resiliency.” Rep. Neron says. “We have an opportunity to rebound from this crisis with improved access to care for Oregon’s children and improved stability for providers. It’s time to invest in this work and get it done.”

The bill is also being championed by a coalition of nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups called Child Care for Oregon, as well as the Fair Shot for All coalition.

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