Legislative Ask to Support the Child Care Sector in Alaska

February 20, 2024

The 2024 State of Alaska Legislative session is in full swing. thread is excited to share our organization’s public policy ask which includes an operating budget increase of $30.5M for the child care sector.

thread advocates for an additional State investment of $30.5M for the child care sector.

$30.5M would double what is currently invested in child care in our state and provide consistent funding to ensure the child care sector can rebound after the pandemic and can grow to meet the needs of Alaskan families. This funding would create more access to affordable and high quality child care in Alaska.

thread is asking law makers to add $30.5M into the FY25 State operating budget in the Child Care Benefits line item. This would increase resources to the Child Care Program Office (CCPO) in the Department of Health and bolster existing programs that have proven to be effective. See our full funding request here.

Child care is a critical infrastructure in Alaska and needs additional, long-term and sustainable investment in order to stabilize, strengthen and grow. The child care sector in Alaska remains fragile and without sustained state funding, will likely see continued challenges including workforce shortages and program closures. In the last four years, Alaska has seen 148 licensed child care programs close. This has left the sector with increased demand for quality child care to support families. Of those that are open, most are struggling with recruiting and retaining a qualified workforce. The child care workforce is paid some of the lowest wages in Alaska and many do not receive paid benefits. With a workforce shortage across the state, this makes competition in the child care sector even greater.

Child care is an industry that has long struggled as a business model and the last several years have made the sector’s challenges worse. With an extreme workforce shortage, high costs for families and inability to maintain solvent business operations, the child care sector needs state investment.

As reported in the Anchorage Daily News, North Dakota, with a population similar to Alaska, just invested $66 Million of state money into their child care sector. Alaska needs to invest in child care now to stay competitive with other states who are making child care more affordable and accessible.

The cost of child care has exceeded inflation over the last three years and is unaffordable for most families. Families are now spending on average more than 15% of their household income for care. For single parent families, this expense is up to 50% of income. Similarly, child care businesses are struggling to make ends meet. Unable to fully staff their classrooms, programs are unable to fully enroll creating a gap in the tuition income they rely on to meet operating expenses.

House Bill 89

thread is happy to announce support for House Bill 89 (HB 89) – Day Care Assistance and Child Care Grant Program. This bill strengthens the Child Care Assistance program for families in Alaska. This bill proposes:

  • Tax breaks for businesses investing in child care
  • Increasing family assistance eligibility from 85% State Median Income (SMI) to 105% of the SMI thus allowing for more families qualifying for Child Care Assistance support
  • Adding a Cost of Care model in consideration of reimbursement rate setting. This would be in addition to the Market Rate Survey.
  • Removing the cap for the Child Care Grants program, which allows for ease in adding funds to this program.
  • Changing the program name from Day Care Assistance to Child Care Assistance.

thread will be actively tracking the State Legislative session and will keep you informed of how you can take action to support increased funding for child care and support HB 89. Watch for action alert emails from thread.

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Thank you for being a child care advocate!