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Utah lawmaker’s proposal takes on ‘desperate’ need for child care

A photo of children at a daycare, with the focus on toy cars.
BBC Creative
Anna Thomas, senior policy analyst with Voices for Utah Children, said the most impactful way to increase child care capacity is “really dramatic reform that involves more government partnership with the child care sector.”

After talking with parents, providers and businesses, state Rep. Susan Pulsipher, R-South Jordan, said it’s clear there’s not enough capacity to meet the need for child care.

“What that looks like for parents is frustration,” Pulsipher said. “I've often said the word when I talk to parents that I hear the most is ‘desperate.’”

According to a March 2020 report from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, only 35% of the state’s child care needs are being met.

Pulsipher’s bill would allow local agencies to put funding that’s typically used for housing toward child care facilities. It also offers grants to help cover startup costs for providers.

She said she doesn’t just want to increase capacity but also options.

“You might have a child who's very shy and doesn't like a lot of people,” she said. “What you might want for that child is to have a home-based provider that just has a few children. If you have choices, you can find one that meets your needs and your child's needs.”

Anna Thomas, senior policy analyst with Voices for Utah Children, said it’s a good first step, but it barely scratches the surface of the problem.

“Tinkering around the edges of a completely broken system is not going to actually create long-term solutions,” Thomas said. “So, this may make some small differences. I don’t think it will have a substantial impact on access to child care for parents.”

Lawmakers may consider Pulsipher’s bill during the upcoming legislative session.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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