Iowa’s Child Care Initiatives Take Shape

Posted November 10, 2021

Information on Iowa’s Child Care Task Force recommendations, Gov. Reynolds response to child care issues, and child care solutions in the Build Back Better Act.

Child care has long been an issue for Iowa’s working families. As the pandemic recedes and business growth is stalled due to a lack of workforce, the child care crisis is again in the news. Organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce and the Iowa Women’s Foundation have been urging business leaders to help address this issue so women and families can get back to work.

As a response to Iowa’s workforce challenges, Governor Kim Reynolds announced the creation of the Iowa Child Care Task Force in early March, a group to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the child care shortage and barrier to work in Iowa. Jennifer Banta, our VP of Advocacy and Community Development was a member of the task force.

The task force, made up of 18 people from throughout the state representing non-profits, community organizations, child care providers, and local government, have recently provided Gov. Reynolds a list of their task force recommendations to address Iowa’s child care crisis. They have given Reynolds a total of 15 recommendations among 4 broad categories. To see a full list of the policy recommendations in depth, read the Final Report. The broad categories, each with their respective policy recommendations, are as follows:

  • Child Care Solutions for Businesses
  • Support for Child Care Providers
  • Quality Child Care for Families
  • Investing in the Child Care Workforce

On Wednesday, November 3rd, Gov. Reynolds announced key initiatives and grants to address the child care shortage and aid the continuing economic recovery. Gov. Reynolds has officially announced the following actions:

  • Implementation of a childcare management system: This statewide, web-based platform will enable providers to leverage a shared services model for many business operations. This system will be available in 2022.
  • Creation of a “Best Place for Working Parents” designation: This designation will recognize employers that go above and beyond to accommodate their employees with children. The new, public designation will help job seekers quickly identify family-friendly employers and will encourage businesses to invest in childcare. This program will begin in January 2022.
  • Additional $10 million in funding for the Child Care Challenge Grant Program: To support the expansion of existing childcare facilities or construction of new centers that will increase the number of childcare slots available to Iowa families, Iowa Workforce Development, in collaboration with the Department of Human Services, has launched another round of funding for the Childcare Challenge Grant Program, available today.
  • $100,000 for integrated model of child care and preschool learning opportunities: The Iowa Department of Education, through ESSER III funds, is making available $100,000 for grants that will advance planning efforts for blended childcare and preschool learning opportunities.
  • $200 million for funding stabilization grants for financial loss due to the pandemic: The Iowa Department of Human Services is providing up to $200 million in federal funding to assist eligible childcare providers who can verify financial loss due to the pandemic. This will ensure that Iowa providers are stable, can support expansion, and continue to serve the needs of Iowa’s working families. Applications to this grant have not yet opened.

Johnson County parents face unique challenges. Where other areas of our state face child care desserts, the Iowa City area faces rising child care costs along with long wait lists. Parents in our area pay the highest rates in the state for child care and those costs are rising, some seeing 15% to 25% increases since the pandemic. In addition to the rising costs of child care, the number of child care providers accepting child care assistance has declined leaving low wage earners in a particularly difficult situation.

To help address these issues Johnson County is accepting Child Care Assistance Expansion Grant applications. The purpose of the funding is to create additional opportunities for Johnson County families eligible for Child Care Assistance (CCA) to access quality child care in their community. Specifically, this funding is intended to create additional slots that serve children receiving Child Care Assistance. Funding will be used to incentivize child care centers that expand the number of slots available in their program to children age 0-5 and not yet in kindergarten that are eligible for Child Care Assistance.

The County may award up to $25,000 in funding to licensed child care centers located in Johnson County and participating in Iowa’s Quality Rating System. Grants will cover the period beginning on or around January 3, 2022 and expiring no later than September 30, 2022. The grant application is located at the Johnson County Website,

Applications are due by 4:00 pm, Monday, December 6, 2021.  For more information, contact Laurie Nash at or 319-356-6090.

Child care initiatives are also being explored on the federal level. Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) plan is expected to include changes to the current child care policies in the U.S., along with many other spending acts. BBB is not finalized and has not passed through Congress yet, so these policies are expected to change through future negotiations. Stay up to date on the BBB’s child care actions and possible adjustments. Below is a brief summary on what BBB will for parents and providers:

  • States receive 3 years of funding from FY2022-FY2024 to support supply building and a phased-in expansion of income eligibility – states who use this funding will be required to provide child care assistance to eligible families by October 1, 2024
  • First 3-year funding is $100 billion, distributed as $24 billion in 2022, $34 billion in 2023, and $42 billion in 2024
  • To raise wages and sufficiently compensate the workforce, participating child care providers would be paid based on a valid and reliable cost estimation model or cost study for the payment rates of child care services in the state. Payment rates would depend on where a provider falls on the state’s tiered system for measuring quality.

To continue to address our child care issues in the state and across the country, we need to find long lasting solutions to the child care workforce challenges. Addressing wages and benefits for our child care workforce is a must to encourage professionalism and retention. We also need to address quality for all our families and acknowledge that education does not start in kindergarten. Having a stable, high quality child care setting in the first five years is the foundation needed to thrive in school and work.

Reaching out to your elected officials at both the state and congressional levels to voice your concerns is a great place to start. Here are the links to Iowa’s lawmakers.

Iowa State Senate & Representative (Find Your State Legislator)

Iowa’s US Representatives: (Map of Districts)

Iowa’s US Senators: