Dems pledge to make further improvements to quality in future sessions
(BISMARCK, N.D.) – After numerous changes throughout the course of the legislative session, House Bill 1422, also known as the childcare bill, passed both chambers today. Dem-NPL legislators, who have long urged action to address the child care crisis in North Dakota, hailed the bill’s passage as a win for kids.
“This bill won’t solve the childcare crisis throughout the state, but it will be a big help” Representative Kathy Hogan, D-Fargo, longtime children’s advocate said. “We have fought for years to ensure families are able to sustain themselves while their children are being cared for and feel that this bill is a step in the right direction.”
The final version of the bill raises income eligibility for childcare assistance from 50 percent to 85 percent in state median income. The legislation also includes $1 million for grants for childcare facilities and $300,000 for special needs childcare. This increase in state median income levels places North Dakota No. 1 in the country alongside Texas and Colorado in providing child care relief through subsidies.
“This bill is a benefit to child care centers, parents and children in North Dakota,” co-sponsor of the bill Senator Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, said. “We give child care facilities more stability and ability to hire staff while at the same time giving families more purchasing and saving power without them having to worry about their center’s fees increasing. We are opening the door for sustainable child care in North Dakota.”
In its original form, the bipartisan HB 1422 had over $15 million for child care stabilization grants, with specific allocations to western North Dakota. That was initially slashed to $2.1 million for IT purposes. However, after lengthy conference committee meetings and negotiations, both the North Dakota Senate and House came to a compromise.
“There is of course more we could have done, but are very pleased with this compromise and know during the next legislative session more minds will be turned in support of expanding child care services in a growing North Dakota,” Senator Tyler Axness, D-Fargo, said. “We look forward to leading that charge.”