The Nebraska State Legislature's Appropriations Committee is currently reviewing LB1203, a proposed bill that would appropriate a portion of Nebraska’s $1 billion allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to strengthen the state’s child care system. The bill was introduced by Senator Tom Briese (District 41) which proposes a total investment of $100.5 million across 16 initiatives.
The Loup Valley Childhood Initiative (LVCI) expressed their support for this bill by submitting one of 58 letters received by the Appropriations Committee. Read LVCI's letter of support here. The Valley County Economic Development Board of Directors also submitted a letter regarding LB1203 to further illustrate the need and support for the bill on behalf of the local area.
As it is outlined on First Five Nebraska's website, LB1203's key provisions include:
Financial recruitment and retention incentives to attract, develop and retain talent in Nebraska’s professional early childhood workforce.
Resources to improve community child care infrastructure through landscape studies, capacity development planning and the start-up and expansion of local child care programs.
Scholarships and professional education opportunities for individuals pursuing early childhood degrees, educational attainment bonuses and stipends for students, business education for child care program owners and other supports.
Financial supports for licensing and administrative requirements including fingerprinting and background checks.
Resources for families including copayment support for subsidized child care and continuation of the Nebraska Child Care Referral Network, which helps parents locate available child care slots.
This bill would not only support community-led efforts to further develop solutions in child care deserts throughout the state but also support existing child care businesses with administrative requirements and workforce related challenges.
ATTRACTING & ANCHORING CHILDCARE PROFESSIONALS Despite its importance to Nebraska’s economy, child care workers are paid approximately half of the annual mean wage of Nebraska workers overall ($25,030 vs. $50,260). LB1203 includes financial incentives to offset the impact of low wages for the early childhood workforce.
RETENTION & RECRUITMENT: $50 MILLION - Provide a $350 monthly allowances for one year to all currently employed child care professionals if they remain in the workforce. - Provide a $350 monthly allowance for one year to newly recruited or re-engaged child care professionals beginning 60 days after active employment. Employees will receive retroactive payment for the initial two months of the year.
BUILD COMMUNITY CHILD CARE CAPACITY Before the pandemic, approximately 28% of Nebraska families did not have access to licensed child care programs. Communities must address these child care deserts to keep parents working, businesses growing, and communities thriving.
BUILD COMMUNITY CHILD CARE INFRASTRUCTURE: $19 MILLION Provide funds for communities to conduct child care landscape studies, develop capacity building plans, business planning quality models, planning and implementation of startup and expansion of child care programs.
Additional details are outlined in First Five Nebraska's LB1203 Policy Brief.
The Valley County Board of Supervisors has already taken progressive and visionary action in support of increasing local childcare capacity. At their February 8, 2022 meeting, the Supervisors approved the allocation of $400,000 of Valley County's ARPA funds for a local childcare provider's facility expansion that would have the capacity to serve over 100 children, including infants. Read more here.
Conversations and decisions on a state level ripple down and impact local economies. The childcare industry is a foundation to our community's ability to grow so these conversation must be kept alive and action must be taken at all levels. Here is how you can get involved as a working parent, business owner or community leader:
Contact a member of the Appropriations Committee to express your support for LB1203. You can find the committee list here.
If your Senator sits on the Appropriations committee, schedule a short meeting to discuss the benefits of this legislation to the overall health of the state.
Raise awareness among the high-stakes economic leaders in your community about ways these State ARPA fund can support childcare needs in your community.