Delayed Bill – 1540. A bill we like. Really like.
HB 1540 is the childcare package bill. It’s the final vehicle to address one of the state’s biggest concerns and provides critical immediate solution to address the state’s current workforce challenges. By providing families opportunities and choices – we will see more winners.
North Dakota isn’t alone in seeing problems with the childcare industry. Over 13% of working parents reported a lost job or reduced hours due to lack of childcare [Econofact]. This coupled with 63% of parents reported difficult in finding childcare [Bipartisan Policy] demonstrates the current conditions for roughly one-third of the US workforce, which are working parents [Becker Friedman Institute].
The floor session last week was polarizing. Let’s talk about what we heard, that we liked:
REP M. LEFOR: One of the most critical components that we are here for is workforce. The number one issue for businesses in this state is the difficulty attracting and retaining workforce. Organizations are seeing an exodus of parents who cannot afford childcare. We are in competition with every other state for capital and talent. There’s 11M open jobs in our country, 30K in North Dakota. I think this bill is an important component of our workforce development. According to the presentation from Department of Health and Human Services, they estimate that this bill will add thousands of people into the workforce.
REP. A. SCHAUER: There’s a need for it. The workforce shortage and the issue with daycare is probably the number 1 issue in North Dakota. Here we are facing 4 months and we are going to walk away from this project because of accusations of socialism. We have a responsibility to face this issue. We have to come up with an answer. This helps providers, businesses who need employees who now have a means to retain employees, families, and children. This is a partnership with the state – this bill needs our support. We are not raising one penny in taxes for this issue. We have the money to support daycare providers, children and businesses through a partnership.
REP. M. BELTZ: I have three points. 1. 72% of 0-5year olds’ parents work – that’s the reality of the situation. You can wish it to be otherwise but people are out making these choices. Are we going to address the reality or the way you want it to be? We’d all like it to be this idyllic world but in reality and in most cases, it’s not. 2. This plan is that the parent is involved, the employer is involved, and so is the state – everybody has some responsibility, some skin in the game. It is our responsibility and it is a workforce issue. 3. How many times do we hear, get a job – support yourself. … How do you do this without childcare? That’s the reality as well.
REP. R. WEISZ: We want everyone to be successful. We want people in the workforce, we want them to be successful, we want the economic growth that this state can provide. Workforce is a major issue. We are in cooperation with the employers, offering to match if they are willing to match, to bring employees to work or make it affordable to take care of their families. Things have changed [from the 1950’s] – we can accept them or not. This bill is important from the standpoint that it does help our workforce.
REP. A. MITSKOG: I want you to look outside of our state, our competing oil state – New Mexico. That’s who we are competing against for workforce. They have now invested heavily in childcare to remain competitive to try to attract people to live and move to their state. That’s what’s happening around the country.
REP. K.R. HANSON: We need to think of childcare as business infrastructure, just like we fund roads and broadband, to ensure our business community can thrive as much as possible, our economy needs a strong and stable childcare infrastructure. Without this, people who already live here can’t take a job and go to work.
The bill passed after long debate. It now heads to the Senate – where we anticipate more debate and more work. We know businesses are on the sidelines watching and waiting, with eyes and jobs open. We know they are daily investing in the state’s economic growth, but we also know they can’t do it alone.
See the House vote: