Osceola County Child Care Demands Addressed by Governor

As child care in Osceola County continues to be an obstacle for local families and businesses, Governor Kim Reynolds slated in her 99-county visit a discussion with community leaders. The meeting took place at Osceola Regional Health Center on Tuesday, August 10th.

Limits to sustaining local child care have included locating workforce, funding compensation, as well as lack of spots available for new children and regulations. Governor Reynolds explained current activity at the state level along with positive examples of other Iowa child care centers meeting the same challenges.

“[These struggles are] really capping our capacity to grow our economy, and there is so much opportunity there right now. It just is the biggest barrier. Where we try to balance is, if you pay your people, it drives up the cost and parents can’t afford it,” acknowledged Governor Reynolds. “This is the path we’re trying to walk. But we’re looking at ways to address it.”

Funding via grants have been available for use toward equipment and upgrades with the exception of infrastructure, creating a significant gap for supplementation of the program. Child Care Task Force will become available later in the month, potentially providing an offset of cost. Additionally, refundable market base tax credits are available to businesses that invest in child care, generating opportunity for local businesses to come together and purchase an amount of seats in the child care center. This would be of equal benefit of the facility and local businesses as a solution.

Strategic planning for Osceola County child care is underway. In the fall of 2020, local employers and families took part in a market study survey which provided data to support the strategy. Evidence of the struggle of available spots in the county was heavily prominent in survey responses, which indicated 64% of parents stated they could not access care for their children due to no available openings. Employers in attendance echoed the complication of acquiring staff due to applicants who hit a snag in finding childcare. Addressing this issue is necessary so Osceola County avoids a decrease in population and workforce.

The existing Osceola County child care facility, bright Beginnings, has resource to serve 128 spots. A goal is to at least double the amount of spots available in the county, whether via in-home centers or daycare.

In-home daycares are encouraged, however are acutely limited by regulation. Opportunity for de-regulation, outside of existing state regulation, has been proposed. However, ensuring children are safe and secure make thorough regulation fundamental to retain quality of facilities.

More barriers extend past conversation. Governor Reynolds explained plainly: “Workforce, housing, child care – we did a good job at attacking it and putting some funding in it, but we just need to get it going.”

August 31st is slated for a community meeting to examine options. Engagement from employers and community members is encouraged to forge ahead in planning.