ND childcare workers testify in hopes of securing funding to fight provider shortages

“North Dakota childcare is absolutely in a crisis, and it’s been building for many years.”
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:04 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Dozens of childcare providers testified in front of lawmakers in Bismarck Thursday; Almost all of them were in favor of a bill that would give millions of dollars of funding to daycares across the state to help fight the worker shortage.

The North Dakota Childcare Action Alliance says there are 10,000 children in the state unable to be cared for due to the drastic shortage of providers.

“The current climate of early childhood is one of low pay, little to no benefits and very high turnover. Sounds like just the job you’re looking for, isn’t it?” Robin Fuehrer, a Bismarck childcare director testified Thursday.

“If we were able to offer higher pay, offer higher benefits, I think we would be able to attract more employees and keep the ones we’ve got, and not work them so hard,” Erin Luverdure, a board member of the Energy Capital Cooperative Childcare in Mercer County said.

Many daycares say they’re running on empty as they have been forced to raise rates, cut hours and cut families in order to keep their doors open.

“That is the last thing we wanted to do,” Luverdure said.

Laverdure says 1,400 workers are needed to fulfil the gap in the state, and current providers say in order to make that happen, more funding needs to be handed down,

“In order to have maximum impact on these most important, early years, we must have more and better qualified people working with these children,” Fuehrer said.

Laverdure says the way SB 2301 is written now, around $37 million of funding would go out if passed. However, many who testified Thursday say they feel that amount should hover closer to $150 million.

“Looking ahead, if you really want to attract new providers to the business or attract new employees to the business, you’re going to have to fund this at a higher level,” Luverdure said.

“These are our kids, and if we’re not gonna focus on it and dedicate resources and time, who will?” Josh Kramer with the ND Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives testified.

Laverdure says the bill’s passing means those who left the workforce to stay home with their children due to lack of care or the cost of it, would finally be able to return. She says bill 2103 is for more than just parents and daycares, but the benefit of everyone in North Dakota.

If the bill is passed, it would become law in August. However, at this time it’s still unclear when funds would be distributed, as well as the exact formula to determine how much each care center would receive.