ND childcare crisis: What's the next step during session gap?
Monday, October 30, 2023
North Dakota's special legislative session on budget technicalities did not bring many surprises. Groups wanting to see more action on child care funding said solutions were left on the table, and they plan to keep the conversation going.
Prior to last week's session, the state adopted a child care plan in the spring, which included $66 million to address access and affordability issues. Advocates said it will help but more resources are needed to rescue families and providers from a situation they claim is beyond "crisis mode."
Amy Jacobson, executive director of the policy group Prairie Action ND, said a proposal is still out there to ensure workers feel supported.
"That would help to ensure that child care workers receive a living wage and that they have benefits," Jacobson explained. "We're recruiting talented people who enjoy working with children and will nurture the next generation."
Jacobson pointed out it would come through a proposed stabilization fund which was reintroduced but did not advance. The next regular legislative session is more than a year away, and she said families and providers affected by worker shortages need to band together to keep telling their stories. While it might not result in immediate statewide action, it might prompt responses from local governments.
Jacobson noted cities like West Fargo are responding to cries for more support. She suggested hearing examples from constituents could compel action elsewhere.
"One person's story really reflects the experience of thousands of other people in North Dakota," Jacobson asserted.
In West Fargo, the city is rolling out a grant program to help child care providers increase capacity. In the long term, Jacobson hopes there is enough pressure when the Legislature reconvenes in early 2025 to take a similar approach seen in states like Minnesota. Earlier this year, policymakers there approved funding for monthly grant payments to child care providers.
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