For your consideration for publication. Thank you.
One billion dollars. That is the amount of federal dollars provided to the state of North Dakota through the American Rescue Plan Act for post-pandemic relief. Child care is at the forefront of the lives of working families in North Dakota and it should be top priority for funding.
When Governor Burgum announced his ‘Accelerate ND’ proposal for spending he directed only 2% of his proposal to address this critical issue; hardly enough to scratch the surface of this nearly insurmountable problem impacting families and businesses across the state.
While North Dakota’s businesses have shown remarkable resilience in the face of public health and economic challenges, it is clear from the ongoing labor shortage that a full recovery requires additional solutions and access to affordable, quality child care is key.
In September, the Treasury Department reported that “an average family with at least one child under the age of 5 would need to devote approximately 13 percent of family income to pay for childcare.” That amount, on average, is nearly $10,000 annually. The same is true for North Dakota’s working families.
Much like a family’s budget, imagine if we invested 13% of the ARPA funds to access quality, affordable child care in the state, increase worker pay for this essential and skilled workforce, and provide additional child care assistance for families.
Earlier this year North Dakota KIDS COUNT published a report including a series of recommendations for the Governor and state legislature to consider to build a ‘better child care system’. The number one priority is to increase pay for people providing the essential service of child care. Child care workers earn on average $24,150 annually of just $11.61 an hour, according to ND Kids Count. This is near poverty level for a family of three.
The North Dakota legislature has an incredible opportunity that cannot be squandered. Investing now in child care will stabilize families and stimulate the economy.
Executive Director Prairie Action ND
To the Editor,
My husband and I farm and we raise our young family in rural Anamoose, ND. As parents of a one year old little girl, we relate very closely to the child care crisis facing so many more families across the state.
The North Dakota KIDS COUNT Child Care Access Report found that “in 2020, North Dakota experienced a net loss of 60 licensed child care providers and 381 slots, further limiting access to licensed child care during and after the pandemic.” What are families to do? We need accessible, affordable, and quality child care.
Our community of Anamoose got creative and resourceful, by opening a child care center in our public school building six years ago. Now, nearly 20 children are lovingly cared for in the child care center. We recognize that every community may not be able to do this. And if we lost this facility, parents would need to quit their jobs. They would be out of the workforce.
Less than 2% of the Governor’s Accelerate ND proposal focuses on child care. That is not enough. Working families need significant investments to fix the child care crisis in our state. Now is the time to invest in child care and build a system that works for parents, child care providers, and moves North Dakota’s economy forward.