Now is the Time to Call Lawmakers to Support Childcare

Wednesday, 15 May 2024 07:31

Now is the Time to Call Lawmakers to Support Childcare Featured

Written by Joe Dorman, OICA CEO
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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Legislature is approaching the constitutionally binding end of the annual session which must occur by 5 p.m. on the final Friday of May.

Each year, lawmakers come to the State Capitol in Oklahoma City to debate policy ideas for improving conditions for certain Oklahomans, and to pass an annual budget to keep state government operating.

In the work done by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA), much of our mission is driven to provide greater opportunities for young people often receiving delivery of services by the state. That can be for children in foster care, those who are in the care of the Office of Juvenile Affairs, or the hundreds of thousands of children who receive subsidized health insurance or delivery of meal services, or care for those who are facing long term care needs for the developmentally disabled.

Another category is the accessibility of services for childcare support for working families. Our state poverty rates show that more than one-fifth of Oklahoma’s children, about 200,000 kids, come from families who suffer intense poverty. Those guardians struggle with decisions on whether to feed their family, pay monthly bills, or cover medical costs. Some families must even decide if they can keep their low-wage job and pay for childcare, or if they must make the tough decision to quit their job to stay home with the children as childcare costs more than most low-wage jobs pay.

As reported last month by the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR), the average price for infant care for one year at a childcare center in Oklahoma County is $11,080. That is a steep price considering the median household income in the county is $58,239. While the price drops slightly for services in the rural areas, unfortunately so does the income ratio for Oklahomans, making it more difficult to afford childcare.

Additionally, there is a critical shortage of available childcare services. In their 2023 childcare summary, OPSR found that 55% of Oklahomans live in a “childcare desert,” with either no providers within their zip code or too few available slots. The problem is even worse in rural areas, where 68% of Oklahomans have no access to childcare.

There are some ideas being considered which will hopefully make it across the finish line before the Legislature adjourns for the year.

One of the best options is House Bill 4147 by Rep. Suzanne Schreiber, D-Tulsa and Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond. A wide array of organizations, ranging from us at OICA to The State Chamber, have been working to raise awareness about the needs addressed by this legislation.

The bill would incentivize businesses to share in the cost of childcare for their employees by providing a tax credit to businesses which provide employees with money to help pay for and find childcare or operate their own childcare service for employees.

This concept also helps businesses with employee retention so they can keep qualified, trained employees who they have already spent time and money on for training.

This is the week for you to contact lawmakers to help push this and other good ideas across the finish line. Please go to https://oica.org under “Advocacy” to find your state senator and representative. Then call and ask them to support childcare services and to adequately fund the services in this budget cycle.

Finally, a sad note this week. We at OICA just learned of the passing of Ray Potts. The Potts family was our lifetime achievement in child advocacy award recipient last year. Join us in expressing our deepest sympathy to Pat Potts and their entire family.

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