Area rep proposes using state funds to build, enhance child care centers in Ohio

$10M grant fund aims for ‘child care solutions in communities across Ohio’

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

A Kettering state representative put forward new legislation that she hopes will help alleviate a marketplace crisis that has left many Ohioans unable to afford child care.

Her proposal, House Bill 484, would create a $10 million grant fund to help employers retrofit or equip onsite or near-site child care facilities; build entirely new child care facilities; or partner with existing providers to help its workforce access child care.

Grants would be capped at $750,000 per grantee.

“This is about bringing an all hands on deck approach to solve the childcare crisis,” said H.B. 484 primary cosponsor Rep. Andrea White, R-Kettering. “You’ve heard it said: This is a workforce crisis for today’s workforce and it’s a workforce crisis for tomorrow’s workforce, because we’ve got to make sure we help our kids have access to quality, early learning and childcare they need.”

White, who introduced the bill alongside Rep. Bill Roemer, R-Richfield, told this news organization that, by incentivizing employers to invest in child care solutions for their employees, employers could attract new hires, more workers would join the workforce, and the state could alleviate some of its child care deserts.

Advocates for expanded child care access are quick to point out that many Ohioans are staying out of the workforce altogether because childcare is too expensive. White said the average cost of child care in Ohio ranges from “$8,580 to $11,438 per year depending on the age of the child,” and noted that a recent survey found that 70% of moms would return to work or work more if child care were more affordable.

On the other side, child care providers have been too few and far between because the pay hasn’t been good enough to attract or keep many in the industry. White hopes her bill could help fix that.

“You give money to an employer to renovate a facility so that they can then allow a child care provider to come in and run a child care center on site or near site and give them low rent,” she said. “Then, that child care provider reduces their overhead costs and they can pay their workers more so they can actually get people interested in working there.”

Lynanne Gutierrez, president of Groundwork Ohio, told this news organization that she supports the bill and views the government funds as a way to entice businesses to be a part of the solution.

“There’s a high level of flexibility that employers have to solve this problem,” Gutierrez said. “It could be onsite child care. It could be near-site child care — negotiating a contract with a local, community-based child care program to secure so many slots for their employees.”

They say it could include adding child care as an employee benefit, too.

White and Roemer’s legislation is the latest in a series of proposals in Ohio to help make child care more accessible. This fix, however, focuses largely on increasing capacity, while other fixes have centered almost entirely on making that cost more manageable for families, either by further subsidizing child care or lowering the bar to qualify for subsidized child care.

For example, an effort by Gov. Mike DeWine to extend subsidized child care to thousands of additional Ohioans was rebuffed by the Ohio Senate in last year’s budget process, largely for reasons touched on earlier this month by Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, who noted that 4,000 small daycare centers have been eliminated in Ohio over the past decade.

“We have to increase capacity. It’s one thing to say you’re eligible for funds and we’re going to pay more money, but if there’s no place to go, it doesn’t help the working parent. So, I think capacity has to be part of the discussion,” Huffman said.

Under White’s and Roemer’s proposal, any grantee would be obligated to participate in the state’s publicly subsidized child care program, along with Step Up to Quality, the state’s tiered rating and improvement system that intends to use child care to prepare young Ohioans to enter school.

“It’s an issue that impacts not only the workforce of today, but the developing young workforce of tomorrow who need access to quality early learning,” White said. “Only 35% of our children are entering kindergarten ready to learn. That’s why we need to act now to help our communities partner together to solve this problem — both for our families and for our businesses.”

The legislation contains no proposal for how the grant fund would be paid for.

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Avery Kreemer can be reached at 614-981-1422, on X, via email, or you can drop him a comment/tip with the survey below.

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