By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee approved $28 million in federal childcare grants on Tuesday.
The childcare grants, made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act, expire on June 30, the end of fiscal year 2023. The federal government made the funds available to states to award eligible providers grants to help enhance wages for daycare workers, as well as keep costs down for families.
Daycare owners and employees had received the grants up through March, and rallied at the statehouse earlier in the month to ask the legislature to release the funds for the remainder of the fiscal year and approve more funds for the next year. At the time, House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, said the issue hadn’t been on his radar, but defended the budget committee’s decision to wait before taking up the issue.
After approving the funds to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the committee then transferred the money to the Idaho Department of Labor as a subgrantee. The Department of Labor will award the grants to childcare providers for the rest of the fiscal year.
Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, raised objections to taking the grants, pointing out the federal funds will soon dry up.
“We’re not helping the sector in the long run,” Herndon said. “There’s going to have to be a day of reckoning… We’re only postponing the inevitable. Unless the state is planning to take over the childcare sector in the state of Idaho, I don’t think this is the solution.”
Herndon also raised concerns about making childcare providers more dependent on government funds. “We don’t help crack addicts by giving them more crack,” he said, drawing an objection from Rep. Colin Nash, D-Boise.
“They provide a critical service for us,” Nash said.
Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, agreed with Herndon that the country is facing a spending crisis, but said accepting the grants will help Idahoans, while turning them down won’t make a difference. “We’re not going to solve federal spending in this room,” Miller said.
The appropriation must still pass the House and Senate before going to the governor for final approval.