Action needed: Child labor bill reverses commitment to kids’ well-being
Instead of looking at ways to boost wages and work supports to attract more Iowans to the workforce, lawmakers instead are considering moves to increase child labor. Senate File 167 passed a Senate subcommittee on Thursday, with sweeping changes that reverse protections for minors in workplaces, from hours to types of work, and reducing liability for businesses in the case of accidents.
A companion bill, HF 134, has been assigned to a subcommittee in the House. Common Good Iowa is registered against both bills. See our blog post outlining CGI’s position on the Senate bill, which is not an answer to a workforce shortage, but turns our young people into pawns for the demands of often low-wage employers. Excerpt:
“If we want more people in the workforce, we need to pay them and to protect them. We need to assure them critical access to child care, and to crack down on wage theft. This bill fails on each count.
“Putting kids to work at longer hours and in potentially risky work assignments isn't a real answer for a workforce shortage, and it's rarely going to be an answer for young people as they proceed toward adulthood.
“Instead, we should ask ourselves, as Iowa leaders in the past have done, what would make Iowa the best place to be a kid? How can we best point a direction for achievement across the spectrum the world offers?”
Please consider contacting your legislators to tell them to oppose this ugly legislation. Learn how here.
HHS boosts Child Care Assistance
It seems odd to even say it, but we have some good, if modest, news to report. The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services announced this week they are increasing the income eligibility level for Child Care Assistance.
The “front door” eligibility cap for families — the maximum they can earn when they first apply — will rise from the long-standing 145% of FPL ($36,047 for a family of three, among the lowest levels in the country) to 155% of FPL ($38,533 for a family of three). This will potentially serve 900 more families each month. Common Good Iowa continues to advocate for an increase to at least 185% of poverty, a level that more closely reflects what it takes for families to make ends meet on wages alone.
In recent years, the department has raised the CCA exit eligibility level, which allows families who qualified for CCA at the low 145% level to keeping getting assistance paying for child care as their wages grow, with increasing copays, up to a maximum of 250% of poverty. But this is the state's first move in years — since Tom Vilsack was Governor — to raise the eligibility cap for families at first application.
The department announced two other welcomed changes aimed at providers:
- The state will increase the CCA reimbursement rates paid to providers to between the 65th and 80th percentile of current market rate. Current reimburses rates range from the 50th to 75th percentile.
- The department will launch a pilot program based on a bill introduced by Rep. Ann Meyer to automatically qualify all child care providers employed by a child care facility — some of the lowest paid workers in our economy — for Child Care Assistance.
The department is able to make these improvements without legislative action because it is sitting on, or expects to receive, enough federal funding to pay for them. Some costs will be covered with ongoing child care development funds and some with one-time ARPA funds.