UPDATED: As Kentucky families and employers continue to struggle with child care issues that are contributing to a devastating workforce shortage across the state, the House voted Friday to move forward with legislation seeking to expand access to child care for working Kentuckians.
House Bill 499, sponsored by Rep. Samara Heavrin, establishes 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.
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.
Rep. Heavrin told the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Thursday evening that polling shows many name child care as a reason for not getting back into the workforce and said the legislation is an innovative way to invest in Kentuckians and build a bridge between employers and the workforce.
Kentucky Chamber Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Kate Shanks stated the following Friday after House passage:
“We know from the data and from talking to employers across the Commonwealth that affordable, quality child care is a major barrier to work for thousands of Kentucky families. House Bill 499 creates an innovative public-private partnership to encourage more employers, especially small businesses, to assist workers with the costs of quality care for their children. With one of the lowest labor force participation rates in the nation, legislation like House Bill 499 is absolutely critical for addressing Kentucky’s long-term workforce challenges. The business community commends Representative Heavrin for her work on this bill and strongly urges passage by the Senate.”
House Bill 499 has more than 60 cosponsors and the support of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Prichard Committee, United Way Kentucky, the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, and others.
The bill passed the House 80-5 and now moves to the Senate for consideration in committee.