OLYMPIA – Priority legislation from Rep. Kristine Reeves, D-Federal Way, to increase affordability and access to childcare passed the House before cutoff, sending the legislation to the Senate and moving another step closer to law.
The legislation, HB 2367 and HB 2396, tackles the “donut hole” of childcare, where middle class families make too much to qualify for state subsidized care, but not enough to afford local childcare options. HB 2367 establishes a new task force to bring businesses, children’s advocates, parents, and lawmakers to the table to find new options to help lower cost and increase access. HB 2396 creates a pilot program to incentivize small businesses by:
- Creating a workforce conditional scholarship and loan repayment private sector (instead of public funds) account that helps recruit new childcare workers,
- Helping childcare workers pay back student loans accrued while pursuing degrees in the childcare field, and
- Creating a public-private partnership for businesses that contribute to a dependent care flexible spending account for employees, which can be used to pay for childcare services by parents.
In addition, the bill takes the best practices from state agencies that have a Bring Your Infant to Work program for infants under 6 months, and provides that to businesses to encourage more families to make the decision to return to work when they are unable to afford infant childcare.
“As a working mom that relies on child care, I know that high-quality childcare is the right choice for my family and many families all across Washington,” said Reeves. “This helps those middle class families struggling as they watch their budgets break by building a public-private partnership that puts people first.”