Dem-NPL lawmakers support childcare improvements, push for more

Democratic-NPL lawmakers expressed support for the childcare proposals shared today but said more may be required to address the crisis.

“As long-time champions for making childcare more accessible and affordable in North Dakota, we support these proposals, and we believe they don’t go far enough because of the scale of the crisis,” said Sen. Kathy Hogan (D-Fargo).

Rep. Zac Ista (D-Grand Forks) agreed that the childcare crisis is serious and pressing.
“Childcare is an incredibly urgent issue for families and the business community right now,” Ista said. “Businesses are desperate for workers – but parents can’t go to work if they can’t find a safe place that provides quality care for their kids. And families who can find childcare are struggling to pay for it. The legislature must quickly and fully address the problems of childcare availability and affordability.”

Besides expanding on the ideas presented today, Rep. Gretchen Dobervich (D-Fargo) said additional ideas should be considered, including foundational funding for childcare facilities similar to the K-12 funding model, administrative assistance to home-based daycares, and expanded pre-K. “The current childcare model isn’t working, and we can’t just tinker around the edges. The state must act boldly to stabilize childcare to help families and businesses,” Dobervich said.

Sen. Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) noted that both rural and urban areas are short on needed care. “We see a lot of creative and innovative solutions to the childcare shortage in our rural communities, but it’s simply not enough to meet demand,” Heckaman said. “Childcare is an essential part of our economic infrastructure. Our communities can’t operate without it. The state is financially healthy, so we have the resources to solve these problems. In fact, we can’t afford not to address these problems.”

Dem-NPL lawmakers have proposed several bills to improve childcare over the years, but unfortunately Republicans in power did not act to prevent today’s crisis, Hogan said. In 2019, Rep. Pam Anderson (D-Fargo) and Sen. JoNell Bakke (D-Grand Forks) each proposed bills providing a corporate income tax credit for employers who reimbursed employees for childcare expenditures. In 2019 and 2021, Rep. Karla Rose Hanson proposed creating a state-facilitated paid family leave program with contributions from employees and employers. In 2019, Rep. Ruth Buffalo (D-
Fargo and Horace) introduced a bill to increase the eligibility rate of the childcare assistance program to 85% of the state medium income level and to fund that additional assistance.

“Many Republican lawmakers will continue to resist any ideas that address the childcare crisis,” Ista said. “Childcare is on the ballot this fall. We need to send people to Bismarck who will invest in kids, families and workforce solutions in North Dakota.”