(BISMARCK, N.D.) – During a press conference Friday at the State Capitol in Bismarck, Senator Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, and Representative Kathy Hawken, R-Fargo spoke on the importance of addressing significant childcare needs in North Dakota to help our kids and increase our state’s economic development and prosperity.
Heckaman and Hawken’s call to action comes in response to the House Human Services Committee’s vote to cut $13.325 million from HB 1442, a bill developed with legislators and the Governor’s office to address the childcare crisis in western North Dakota and throughout the state. Out of the $15.425 million originally contained in this legislation to address unmet childcare needs, only $2.1 million remains.
“That’s like throwing five feet of rope to a person who is drowning 50 feet off shore,” Representative Hawken said. “We have economic developers that are recruiting people and wanting to bring in families. In order to have those quality people stay in North Dakota and raise their families they need to be able to care for their children. Right now that need is not being met.”
“It is already difficult to provide child care, and it is even more difficult for families to find someone to care for special needs children,” said Heckaman, the prime sponsor of SB 2244, which would increase access and improve special-needs childcare. “The solutions to our childcare crisis can be found this legislative session. It is just a matter of political will. We have the means to provide parents with the reassurance that there will be someone to take care of their children while they pursue career opportunities in North Dakota.”
The cuts made to HB 1442 defund several important priorities:
- $7 million cut from Stabilization, Incentive grants to child care centers to areas of the state affected by oil and gas development
- $6 million cut from Stabilization, Incentive grants to child care centers to other areas of the state
- $325,0000 cut from assessment monitoring and consumer awareness
Representative Hawken noted that a bipartisan group of legislators would work to address childcare needs through the amendment process on the Senate side. She stressed the importance of legislators needing to recognize the issue as a statewide economic need.
“This is a not a political issue, this is a ‘let’s help North Dakota parents and kids’ issue,” she said.