(DES MOINES, Iowa) - On March 10, 2021, Governor Kim Reynolds signed Executive Order 8, launching a new Child Care Task Force to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the child care shortage and barrier to work in Iowa. The task force, representing business, non-profit and community organizations, providers and local government, have been working vigorously and will complete their 100-day challenge in July 2021 - a challenge to present recommendations to address child care needs in Iowa to the governor in their first 100 days.

The importance of child care to economic recovery is a priority for the Reynolds administration. "As governor, I have been inspired by the work of the task force and also know that there are changes we can make now," Reynolds said. "I am directing the Department of Human Services to act quickly and swiftly to implement policies and programs that will help those working with our children sustain their business. It is my priority to keep making Iowa and our workforce stronger, and that is why supporting child care is so important."

Effective July 1, 2021, child care provider rates will increase to the 2020 Market Rate Survey. Currently, providers are being paid at a 2017 rate, and it is imperative that wages are increased to reflect the current market.

It is also important that the state of Iowa increase the number of child care workers seeking higher education and assist them with a wage supplement while pursuing educational opportunities. To this end, DHS will sustain a statewide contract for the T.E.A.C.H. and Child Care WAGE$ programs beyond State Fiscal Year 2022.

T.E.A.C.H. is a comprehensive scholarship program that provides education opportunities to the early childhood workforce and helps establish a well-qualified, fairly compensated and stable workforce for Iowa's children.

Low wages in the child care field create a barrier to child care programs attracting and keeping staff, which affects the availability of child care. The WAGE$ program provides education-based salary supplements to the early care and education workforce, and has proven to reduce turnover and help attract staff. DHS data shows a retention rate of 84 percent or more for WAGE$ participants, which means a turnover rate of 16 percent or less. Compared to the national turnover rate in child care of over 30 percent, this demonstrates a significant reduction in turnover.

Lastly, DHS will continue to pay providers monthly stipends and unlimited absent days for eligible families on Child Care Assistance until August 31, 2021. Iowa is continuing to rebound from COVID, and our economy is recovering. Supporting child care providers through the summer will continue to stabilize the market as Iowans return to a pre-pandemic state.

"Our child care providers worked throughout the pandemic as a vital support to our larger workforce - even as others shifted to remote options. I am tremendously grateful for their contribution to our COVID response over the past year. They ensured our health care professionals and other essential infrastructure were able to continue their work knowing they had access to high-quality child care. I am proud to offer child care providers continued support as they fulfill their critical role of caring for Iowa's children and preparing them for the future," said Director Kelly Garcia.