Kentucky families and employers continue to struggle with child care issues that are contributing to a devastating workforce shortage across the state.
Legislation filed Tuesday in the Kentucky state House seeks to expand access to child care for working Kentuckians.
Rep. Samara Heavrin filed House Bill 499, establishing The Employee Child Care Assistance Partnership, which encourages non-profit and for-profit employers to offer child care assistance as a benefit by matching employer contributions with state dollars.
The bill comes as Kentucky’s workforce participation rate is among the lowest in the nation at just 56.8 percent and the impacts of the pandemic continue to make it difficult for working parents to get back into the workforce.
Between child care facilities shutting down, schools being closed, the high cost of child care, and more, Kentucky parents have struggled to stay in the workforce in recent years, and employers are continually unable to fill open positions.
“No parent should have to choose between earning a living and proper care for their child, and that’s a reality many Kentucky parents are facing.” Heavrin said. “This program will be a critical step in restoring Kentucky’s workforce, helping small businesses, and supporting our hardworking Kentucky parents. I’m filing this legislation to help these parents get back to work and ensure their children are well taken care of in the process.”
House Bill 499 is inspired by a similar program in Florida and aims to create a new public-private partnership between employers, employees, qualified child care providers, and the state. Under the program, each partnership will submit a contractual agreement to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and if approved, the state will match the employer contribution up to 100 percent of the cost of care.
The legislation has the support of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Prichard Committee, United Way Kentucky, the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, and others.
Kentucky Chamber Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Kate Shanks said the following Wednesday:
“Workforce is the number one issue facing Kentucky businesses. We continue to lag behind the rest of the country in workforce participation, and access to high-quality child care is one of the top contributing factors. Kentucky is at a pivotal time, as we see new investments in our state, but we do not have the workforce to meet these opportunities. Rep. Heavrin’s bill is a crucial step in solving our workforce challenges, and the business community is fully committed to ensuring child care access is not a barrier to work.”
Stay tuned to The Bottom Line for more updates on the legislation.