Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo, M.D. (CO-08) on Wednesday, joined a group of Members introducing bipartisan legislation that will improve the availability and lower the cost of childcare in rural communities. Agricultural and rural prosperity hinge on attracting and retaining a vibrant healthy workforce. Childcare is an essential service supporting this workforce while also enhancing rural quality of life. Yet, it is expensive and often unavailable for families, farm workers, and rural residents. Before COVID decimated the childcare sector, a 2018 study found that 3 in 5 rural communities lacked adequate childcare supply.
Caraveo introduced the Expanding Childcare in Rural America (ECRA) Act alongside Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA-3), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR-5), and Tracey Mann (R-KS-1). It was also introduced today by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Tina Smith (D-MN) in the Senate.
“As a pediatrician, I’ve seen the toll it takes on families when they don’t have affordable, reliable childcare. That burden is even more present in rural communities, where there are fewer providers, and families may have to travel a great distance for childcare. I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to ensure rural families have access to the low-cost, high-quality childcare they need and deserve,” said Rep. Caraveo.
Childcare has direct economic impacts by affecting the farm’s production and marketing systems which in turn affects farm viability, risk management, workforce attraction and retention, farm safety, mental health, and quality of life. Childcare is an issue that affects all of agriculture regardless of farm size, production system or geographic location.
The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act would direct U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development to authorize and prioritize projects that address the availability, quality, and cost of childcare in agricultural and rural communities through the following programs:
- The Community Facilities Program offers direct loans, loan guarantees and grants to develop or improve essential public services and facilities in communities across rural America.
- Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training Grant offers grants to eligible public bodies and private, nonprofit organizations (such as states, counties, cities, townships, incorporated towns, villages, boroughs, authorities, districts, and Tribes located on Federal or state reservations) to provide technical assistance and/or training in support of the essential community facilities program.
- The Business & Industry Loan Guarantee Program provides loan guarantees to commercial lenders for loans to eligible rural businesses.
- The Rural Business Development Grant Program is a competitive grant designed to support targeted technical assistance, training, and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas that have fewer than 50 employees and less than $1 million in gross revenues.
- The Rural Innovation Strong Economy Grant Program offers grant assistance to create and augment high-wage jobs, accelerate the formation of new businesses, support industry clusters and maximize the use of local productive assets in eligible low-income rural areas.
- The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program provides loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) to provide microloans for microenterprise startups and growth through a Rural Microloan Revolving Fund; and provide training and technical assistance to microloan borrowers and micro entrepreneurs.
The bill would also allow USDA to make awards through intermediaries such as, childcare resource and referral organizations, staffed family childcare networks, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) with demonstrated expertise in the childcare sector.
“Child care in rural communities like mine is next to impossible to find and afford. Before coming to Congress, my husband and I brought our son to our auto repair shop most days because there were no other child care options available,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “Our bipartisan bill will make child care more accessible and affordable in rural communities so families can get the support they need no matter where they live.”
“During the two Farm Bill listening sessions I’ve held with Oregon farmers and ranchers, they’ve raised concerns about a lack of access to child care. I brought this problem to Secretary Vilsack’s attention when he was in front of the Agriculture Committee, but it’s clear Congress needs to take proactive steps to help these parents. I’m honored to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation that directs the USDA to help parents in rural areas find accessible, affordable, and high-quality care for their children,” Rep. Chavez-DeRemer said.
“Raising a family is one of the highest callings on earth, and people often choose where to live and work based around that calling,” said Rep. Mann. “The men and women who work tirelessly to feed, fuel, and clothe us all deserve to raise their families in a healthy environment full of opportunities where children can grow and learn. With this bill, Congress can improve the quality of life for rural Americans, promote low cost, high quality childcare in agricultural and rural communities, and help those communities attract and retain a vibrant and healthy workforce.”
The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act is supported by the National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation, Save the Children, Early Care and Education Consortium, First Five Years Fund, the Bipartisan Policy Center, National Farm Medicine Center, First Focus Campaign for Children, and KinderCare Learning Companies.
“NFU strongly supports the Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act of 2023. This important legislation tackles the challenges rural families face in accessing quality, affordable childcare. By investing in this bill, we can improve the lives of farm families and their communities and make a lasting impact on rural America,” said National Farmers Union President Rob Larew.
“Save the Children has been working with children and families in rural America for over 90 years. So, we know the difference that access to high-quality, affordable child care makes to children, families and their communities. But, despite the overwhelming benefits of high-quality child care, the majority of families living in rural communities don’t have access to such programs,” says Roy Chrobocinski, Managing Director of Domestic Federal Policy at Save the Children. “That’s why Save the Children applauds Senators Brown, Marshall and Smith as they introduce the Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act, which would prioritize high-quality child care in rural communities for USDA Rural Development funding.”
“Nearly 60 percent of families in rural communities live in a “child care desert”, where access to the affordable child care parents rely on to go to work is incredibly difficult to find,” said First Five Years Fund Executive Director Sarah Rittling. “Lack of child care impacts families, businesses, and local economies alike, because when parents struggle to find care, employers are left scrambling to fill shifts and recruit employees. That is why we are so grateful to Sens. Brown, Marshall and Smith, and Reps Gluesenkamp Perez, Chavez-DeRemer, Mann, and Caraveo for their bipartisan work to introduce the Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act of 2023, a commonsense proposal to allow for the expansion of high-quality child care in rural areas.”
“The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act paves the way for high-quality child care to exist in rural and agricultural communities that have long struggled with severe gaps in supply. This bill opens up existing funding streams to localities that identify child care as a barrier to attracting and retaining a robust and qualified workforce. The Early Care and Education Consortium is proud to endorse this bill, and our members are excited to work with rural and agricultural communities across America to develop scalable solutions that support the needs of working families,” said Sage Schaftel, Acting Executive Director, Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC).
“Rural communities face unique challenges in increasing access to quality child care for families,” said Linda Smith, Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Early Childhood Initiative. “Not only does limited access to care have long-term impacts on child development, but it also has an immediate impact on economic loss in rural communities. The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act of 2023 establishes a pathway for rural communities to access capital, increase access to care, and connect families to critical child care resources. We applaud the Senators’ bipartisan work championing this issue and look forward to working with members of both parties on continued efforts.”
See a one-pager on the bill here.
- Vasquez Continues to Prioritize Lowering Energy Costs for New Mexicans - February 22, 2024
- Deadline for National DACA Scholarships is February 29 - February 22, 2024
- Colorado Moves to Connect Agricultural Workers With Mental Health Resources - February 22, 2024