(BISMARCK, N.D.) – Dem-NPL legislators today called for a restoration of funds to provide access to daycare for special needs children and bold steps to address the broader childcare crisis in North Dakota. The Dem-NPL legislators’ action comes on the heels of a vote by the North Dakota House of Representatives Thursday to strip all funding for special needs daycare from SB 2244. The bill will now return to the Senate for consideration in the form of a legislative study.
“Zeroing out the funding for special needs daycare in this bill is just the latest example of the GOP majority’s utter failure to provide solutions to the childcare crisis facing North Dakota families,” said Senator Joan Heckaman (New Rockford). “Thousands of parents are unable to find adequate care for their kids during the day, but those challenges are most pronounced for those who have children with special needs. We don’t need another study. We need to take action.”
While Heckaman and a bipartisan group of legislators have advanced sensible legislation to improve access to childcare in the state, the GOP majority has consistently slashed funding contained in these bills. For instance, HB 1422 would have appropriated $15.43 million to stabilize child care operations, recruit and retain a qualified workforce, and advance quality practices. After House consideration, the funding in the bill was reduced to approximately $2.1 million. This funding may only be used for technical assistance.
“We have critical rapid growth areas in our state that are not going away, they are present now and will be present in two years,” House Human Services Committee member Representative Kylie Oversen, D-Grand Forks said. “Instead of ignoring the problem and stripping funds, we need to make sure families across the state and those that are moving into western North Dakota for jobs have a safe, caring environment for their kids.”
Senator Tyler Axness (Fargo – West Fargo), a member of the Senate Human Services Committee, said he would lead efforts to restore funding to improve childcare and widen availability across the state.
“While all parts of the state are facing challenges, the childcare situation in western North Dakota is actually beyond crisis,” Axness said. “Many oil patch counties are not able to provide viable child care facilities at a rate that matches the influx of people. That is why I intend to amend HB 1422 back to its original form.”
Data from North Dakota Child Care Resource & Referral regarding the need for childcare in oil patch communities is sobering. In Williams County, for example, only 18% of the demand for childcare is being met. In Mountrail County, the percentage of is 13%. Additionally, childcare was identified as a top priority of both the “ND 2.0” and “ND 2020 and Beyond” initiatives, respectively led by USDA Rural Development and The North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, which gathered input from leaders in business, education, and government during many meetings throughout the state.
“We know what the needs are and know what must be done,” Heckaman added. “We will keep up the fight for North Dakota kids and their parents.