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Burgum, Sanford Unveil Child Care Proposal 

The Dakotan
 September 13, 2022
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Support for Working Families, Address Workforce Challenges 

FARGO -- Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford were joined by state legislators Tuesday at a press conference in Fargo to announce a framework for legislation to address the availability, affordability and quality of childcare services in North Dakota, which continues to be a major barrier to workforce participation.  

Currently, childcare costs account for 15% to 40% of the average household budget in North Dakota, which often isn’t sustainable for young working families, according to the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services. Burgum pointed to data showing most North Dakota communities are experiencing greater workforce shortages this year than last year, with job openings in August up 4.3% over the same month a year ago and the state’s unemployment rate being the sixth lowest in the nation.  

“Workforce is one of North Dakota’s top barriers to economic growth, yet in many cases, parents are having to choose between working and paying for childcare, or not working at all,” Burgum said. “Providing better availability to affordable, quality childcare will make it easier for working families – especially young families just beginning their careers – to engage in work, provide for their families, help grow our economy and support local businesses and their communities. We’re grateful to everyone who collaborated on this proposal, and we look forward to working with the legislature to pass a childcare package that addresses our workforce needs and provides quality early childhood experiences.” 

 “This proposal is the result of more than 14 months of work and discussions with childcare providers, business leaders, the Workforce Development Council, legislators and other key stakeholders,” said Sanford, who chairs the state’s Early Childhood Education Council. “To make a meaningful impact for children, working parents and businesses, we need to adopt a comprehensive strategy that includes government and employers partnering with communities to reach solutions.”  

Also attending or participating in today’s press conference at Bright Futures Learning Center in Fargo were Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Chris Jones, Greater North Dakota Chamber President and CEO Arik Spencer, and state legislators including Sens. Dale Patten of Watford City and Kyle Davison of Fargo and Reps. Mike Beltz of Hillsboro, Matt Ruby of Minot, Emily O’Brien and Mark Sanford of Grand Forks, Greg Stemen of Fargo, and Cynthia Schreiber-Beck and Alisa Mitskog of Wahpeton. Senators Curt Kreun of Grand Forks and Judy Lee of West Fargo and Reps. Jon Nelson of Rugby and Michelle Strinden of Fargo were unable to attend but also indicated their support for the proposal, which has an estimated cost of $70 million to $80 million over the two years of the 2023-25 biennium.  

The proposal focuses on affordability, availability and quality of childcare services, addressing each area in multiple ways, including:  

Affordability  

• Expanding the current Child Care Assistance Program to increase the number of families with children ages 0 to 3 who receive help paying for childcare.  

• Providing a state childcare tax credit, similar to the federal Child and Dependent Care credit, to assist low, moderate and middle income working families cover the cost of childcare.  

• Expanding the model of public-private partnerships to help more employers offer their employees a childcare benefit with matching investment from the state.  

Availability  

• Incentivizing providers to deliver childcare for infants and toddlers by increasing the rate paid by the state for those families who receive childcare assistance.  

• Partnering with career and technical education programs, K-12 and higher education to offer students interested in early childhood careers more on-the-job training and certification opportunities in partnership with local child care programs.  

• Partnering with employers to identify creative availability solutions for families who work nontypical hours or whose jobs require nontraditional childcare solutions.  

• Supporting a more sustainable, stable childcare sector through grants, incentives, training and shared service resources.  

• Providing childcare business solutions, facility grants and resources to create environments for children with special needs.  

Quality  

• Ensuring every child whose family is interested has access to a "Best in Class" experience the year before kindergarten.  

• Expanding parental choice for working families by creating quality-based payment tiers in the Child Care Assistance Program.  

• Providing incentives for childcare providers who take the necessary steps to meet quality standards.  

• Offer scholarships and grants for additional learning/training opportunities to individuals already in the early childhood profession. 

The Governor’s Office and DHHS will work with legislators and external stakeholders to continue to refine the proposal to prepare it for introduction during the 2023 legislative session. 

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