OLYMPIA— On Thursday, February 13, the Washington State House of Representatives passed legislation sponsored by Representative Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) to help struggling childcare providers and bolster the childcare workforce.
“In a city like Seattle with higher incomes and a denser population, the loss of one childcare facility might not mean much,” said Shewmake, “but in Whatcom County, the looming closure of KidsWorld hit us hard, scaring parents, businessowners, and teachers. I convened a roundtable of childcare providers from around Whatcom and, together, we made a list of the barriers they run up against. This bill knocks down five of those barriers.”
The Rural Childcare Access Act (House Bill 2619) is designed to tackle the unique challenges rural communities face, where population density and lower incomes pose serious challenges to childcare centers. The bill passed the House with nearly unanimous, bipartisan support.
HB 2619 streamlines licensing requirements for new owners of childcare facilities, balances subsidy rates, and directs the state’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to study statewide innovations in childcare and licensing in order to better understand how to improve access in rural areas.
“It’s my job to try my hardest to stop what happened to the families at KidsWorld from happening to any other families in Whatcom County or Washington state,” said Shewmake. “Childcare is one of the best investments we can make as a society in our kids’ future. If the Boys & Girls Club hadn’t been able to step in at the last minute, we would have had more than 530 kids that potentially wouldn’t have gotten a fair start in life.”
Shewmake represents the 42nd Legislative District. This district includes most of Whatcom County, including North Bellingham, Ferndale, Lummi Nation, Blaine, Lynden, Sumas, Everson, and Nooksack.