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Idaho State News

Idaho budget committee votes to cut funding for child care, family supports

Audrey Dutton | Idaho Capital Sun. Photo by Otto Kitsinger | Idaho Capital Sun

The $36 million and $2 million programs were expected to maintain child care wages, reduce risk of child abuse

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Idaho lawmakers on Monday removed about $38 million from state budgets for the coming year that would have gone to child care providers and to efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee of the Idaho Legislature voted to approve several of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s budgets after making the cuts. The budgets now go before the House and Senate with “do pass” recommendations.

Cuts to Idaho child care assistance

The committee voted 17-2 to pass a budget without the child care stabilization grant. The $36 million grant from the federal American Recovery Plan Act would have gone to Idaho child care providers between July and September.

Those grants are designated for “access to reliable, high-quality, and affordable child care” via one-time cash grants to “help child care providers stay in business,” according to the budget request.

About 3,600 child care providers in Idaho have used the grants to boost wages of child care staff, according to Emily Allen, outreach and policy associate for Idaho Voices for Children.

The funding also supports child care subsidies for low-income families, according to the budget request.

“This is going to devastate a lot of child care providers and a lot of working families at a time when things are just getting back up and running,” Allen said.

Democratic members of JFAC from Boise — Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking and Rep. Colin Nash — voted against the revised budget. All other members of JFAC except for an absent/excused Sen. Kevin Cook, R-Idaho Falls, voted in favor of the budget.

Another $43.1 million to fund child care stabilization grants from March through July has yet to be voted on by JFAC. That also comes from federal ARPA funds and has already been sent to Idaho for distribution. However, child care providers across the state fear that it, too, will be axed by the Idaho Legislature, said Allen, who said she has heard there’s not enough will to take it up in JFAC.

Child care providers knew the ARPA funds would come to an end; they just didn’t expect it to happen so soon, Allen said.

Without the funding assistance, they expect “to need to increase tuition rates, like, immediately” if they want to keep their employees, she said. Parents leaving the workforce because of unaffordable child care would affect the economy, she said.

“Working families … don’t have a lot of budget wiggle room at this point,” she said.

In an emailed statement to the Idaho Capital Sun after the vote, Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s Press Secretary Madison Hardy said the governor “recognizes that access to affordable, reliable child care benefits Idaho families and the state’s economy while providing stability in today’s volatile workforce.”

“As Idahoans continue to feel the effects of historic inflation, continued inability to access childcare services could significantly impact new parents’ ability to reenter the workforce and financially support their growing families,” Hardy said.

Cuts to family support in wake of abortion ban

The committee on Monday also passed a budget without $2 million to support and educate families that are at risk of ending up in the child welfare system.

It was among Little’s budget priorities for the year. His administration said it would support “evidence-based child abuse and neglect prevention programs” and offer parenting resources.

Examples of that support included training on adverse childhood experiences, a cluster of experiences that can hinder a child’s healthy development and lead to ongoing problems throughout their life.

Last June, Little applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — a decision that triggered Idaho’s near-total ban on abortions.

“However, we fully acknowledge this monumental moment in our country’s history means we must confront what we know will be growing needs for women and families in the months and years ahead,” Little said in the June statement responding to the Supreme Court decision. “We absolutely must come together like never before to support women and teens facing unexpected or unwanted pregnancies. Families, churches, charities, and local and state government must stand ready to lift them up and help them and their families with access to adoption services, healthcare, financial and food assistance, counseling and treatment, and family planning. We are being called to support women and our fellow community members in extraordinary new ways, and I’m confident Idahoans are ready to meet this responsibility with love and compassion.”

The revised child welfare budget without that $2 million passed through JFAC unanimously.

Hardy responded to the budget committee’s decision, saying the governor “has worked with legislators, the medical community and the pro-life community to address” the need for more support, to keep at-risk families from entering the child welfare system.

“He trusts that the Idaho Legislature will put forward alternative solutions that support the needs of Idaho women and our communities,” Hardy wrote.

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