DES MOINES, Iowa — The labor shortage is a high priority for Iowa lawmakers this legislative session. It’s an issue tied directly with child care in the state.

Iowa State Rep. Ann Meyer (R) from Fort Dodge sponsored three bills so far that are aimed at giving relief to child care facilities and staff.

“We want to make sure everyone can get to work and if they need to get to work they have access to safe and affordable child care,” said Meyer.

House Study Bill 511 would shift child care center staff ratios and allow for more flexibility for the providers. The new ratios if passed would be one provider for seven 2-year-olds and one provider for ten 3-year-olds.

House Study Bill 510 would give families in the Child Care Assistance (CCA) program the ability to pay child care providers the difference between what the program pays for and what the provider typically charges. Both of these bills have passed subcommittee and await discussion on the Human Resources committee.

House Study Bill 539 would lower the minimum age requirement to 16 for employees in child care facilities. This is being discussed in subcommittee this upcoming week.

“I do think there are 16-year-olds that are more than qualified to handle some child care issues,” said Meyer. “I know child care centers have their own requirement of training and I think that is very important that they go through that training.”

Meyer said that she expects all three bills to pass the legislature without too much opposition. The Democratic leadership’s response, in general, to how Republicans are handling the issue is that it is putting kids in danger.

“The quickest thing they go to is find a way to make things a little less safe for those kids who are in those child care centers,” said State Rep. Jennifer Konfrst (D) from Windsor Heights. “Instead of that, let’s address pay, let’s look at child care reimbursement, let’s look at wages for child care workers, let’s make sure that we are actually paying who are actually taking care of our kids as well as we can so they actually stay in that position.”

Meyer does agree that child care providers need to be paid more and wants to find a way to do that. She added that Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Child Care Challenge grant is helping that process. Meyer mentioned that in her own town a child care facility with 60% CCA kids was able to increase every staffer’s pay by $2 to the hour.